sat 19/10/2019

CD: George Benson - Guitar Man | reviews, news & interviews

CD: George Benson - Guitar Man

CD: George Benson - Guitar Man

Sumptuous voicings, scatting, fleet-fingered runs and even a hip Danny Boy

The guitar man nonpareil: Mr George Benson

Spoiler alert: this CD contains grooves that will bring out your inner air guitarist. From the album's lead-off song, “Tenderly”, whose sumptuous voicings lesser artists can only fantasise about, to its towering sign-off, “Fingerlero”, George Benson's 24-carat gift for free-flowing improv remains a thing of wonder. “Fingerlero” also features one of the most recognisable and heart-stirring sounds in jazz: Benson scatting in perfect unison with his deftly picked guitar lines. He makes you wait, but it's so worth it.

Heard in both combo and solo settings, the 12-track set includes nods to former guitar giants, a rambunctious version of the Champs' Latin-flavoured pop hit “Tequila” and a brilliant instrumental reworking of The Beatles' “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, previously recorded back in the mid-1960s by the great Wes Montgomery and Grant Green respectively. Benson's version of the latter sees one of Lennon and McCartney's earliest offerings transformed into a sultry, five-minute jazz workout.

Recorded over a single day, with the legendary Al Schmitt at the controls, the Pittsburgh-born guitar master's ability to float above a 4/4 groove comes strongly to the fore in “The Lady In My Life” - lots of chunky octave playing here – while his fleet-fingered runs up and down the guitar neck imbues Coltrane's “Naima” with a delicacy that seems to capture the music in mid-air.

“Danny Boy” is one of those done-to-death tunes which should really be left well alone until, let's say, the next millennium. Yet even here, Benson's chord substitutions and striking use of ornamentation makes this old chestnut sound hip. Damn. It's just one of the reasons why, in 2009, Benson was recognised by the National Endowment of the Arts as a Jazz Master, the USA's highest honour in jazz.

Watch a short clip about Guitar Man

'Fingerlero' features one of the most recognisable and heart-stirring sounds in jazz: Benson scatting in perfect unison with his deftly picked guitar lines

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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