George Benson - Guitar Man

George Benson - Guitar Man
Release Date:
October 4, 2011
Contemporary Jazz, Jazz-Pop
Recording Location:
Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA; DB Studios, Tel Aviv, Israel; Entourage Studios, North Hollywood, CA; Porcupine Studios, Chandler, AZ; The Village Studios, West Los Angeles, CA; Visual Rhythm Studios, Alhambra, CA
Guitar Man

Guitar Man, George Benson's second offering for Concord stands in contrast to 2009's Songs and Stories, though is not an about face. While the earlier album focused on Benson's proven, decades-long formula for pop and smooth jazz -- a group of of easy grooving tunes featuring his silky voice and shimmering guitar work -- this set focuses (primarily) on Benson as a contemporary jazz guitarist. While slickly produced by John Burk, this full-length is an ambitious but readily accessible collection with lithe, languid grooves and stellar playing. Primarily arranged by musical director/keyboardist David Garfield, Guitar Man contains eight instrumentals, which include beautiful solo readings of the standards "Tenderly," which opens the disc, and "Danny Boy." There is a lush, balladic, string-laden arrangement of the Beatles' "I Want to Hold Your Hand" -- a consciously chosen reminder of Benson's work at A&M. Another highlight is his very contemporary but digified reading of John Coltrane's "Naima," which is simply gorgeous. It begins largely solo before the band enters halfway through, led by Harvey Mason's empathic drumming. The reading of "Tequila" here is warm, funky, and fun, with fine piano work by Joe Sample and percussion by Lenny Castro. Likewise, the reading of Arlen's and Harburg's "Paper Moon" displays beautiful interplay between Benson and Sample. Of the vocal tunes, the cover of Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" is the standout, but "My One and Only Love," with a long solo guitar intro, is very fine too.

The set ends with two vocal tunes that contrast nicely.

First is a very soulful treatment of the Buddy Johnson nugget "Since I Fell for You," with his voice and guitar accompanied only by Garfield's piano.

Guitar Man finishes with Ronnie Foster's Latin-tinged groover "Fingerlero." Sample, Mason, and Castro star on the tune and Benson scats in trademark tandem with his guitar lines, sending it off in a contemporary jazz mode.

As a guitarist, Benson is still at the top of his game; his musical eclecticism and his on-target accessibility are refined and equally reflected here.

Tenderly / Walter Gross / Jack LawrenceGeorge Benson2:01
I Want to Hold Your Hand / John Lennon / Paul McCartneyGeorge Benson5:10
My Cherie Amour / Henry Cosby / Sylvia May / Stevie WonderGeorge Benson4:08
Naima / John ColtraneGeorge Benson3:41
Tequila / Daniel FloresGeorge Benson4:30
Don't Know Why / Jesse HarrisGeorge Benson2:45
The Lady in My Life / Rod TempertonGeorge Benson4:30
My One and Only Love / Robert Mellin / Guy WoodGeorge Benson3:24
Paper Moon / Harold Arlen / E.Y. "Yip" Harburg / Billy RoseGeorge Benson2:44
Danny Boy / Frederick Edward WeatherlyGeorge Benson3:26
Since I Fell for You / Woodrow "Buddy" JohnsonGeorge Benson2:58
Fingerlero / Ronnie FosterGeorge Benson3:39