LINER NOTES – GEORGE BENSON

Welcome to the latest issue of LINER NOTES, the article that features one of music’s greats from back in the day.  This month’s celebrated artist began his recording career in 1964 with the release of the album, The New Boss Guitar of George Benson (with the Brother Jack McDuff Quartet).  The title alone tells you this was a product of the hip 60’s.  The full length of the entire album was less than 35 minutes.  I’d heard uninvestigated rumblings of this fabulous guitarist, George Benson, with the release of “Shape of Things To Come” in ’69 and “White Rabbit” in ’72 but I still hadn’t purchased my first record yet and I hadn’t expanded my young mind to appreciate Jazz.  I really turned on to George Benson when he released his Bad Benson album in 1974 on CTI Records.  I wasn’t turned on to Jazz quite yet but I had just started as a DJ on R&B station WJLB in Detroit, so I got a free promo copy of the album.  I did think Creed Taylor (CTI) put out some incredibly attractive album covers.  The black, dangerous looking Bad Benson cover was no exception… loved it!  It was the album cover that prompted me to listen to Bad Benson, not the expected Jazz content.  Well, I listened and I was floored.  Now, I wanted to hear everything “BAD” BENSON had ever put out.  My favorite tracks were the Phil Upchurch compositions, “Full Compass” and “No Sooner Said Than Done” and the Paul Desmond classic, “Take 5.”


posted by Jazzaudrey

George Benson was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1943.  He began playing the ukulele at age 7 and by 8 was playing guitar professionally, and quite illegally, in a local club.  Early on, George was following the “strictly Jazz” route of playing instrumentals mostly.  His fingers were lightning quick and his style was straight ahead Jazz.  He did a short stint of playing with Miles Davis in the mid 60’s, the Jazz rite of passage.  It’s a talent litmus test; if you are chosen to play with Miles Davis, you have to be one heck of a musician.  You can hear Benson gettin’ down with Miles on a track called, “Paraphenalia,” from Miles’ ’68 album, Miles In The Sky.  Check out Benson on the wildly popular song from 1980, “Give Me The Night.”


posted by orijoci

In 1986, George Benson performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.  Montreux is the second largest music festival in the world and the Swiss music lovers are treated to the best of the best annually.  Our next video features George performing my absolute favorite song from the Give Me The Night album.  The song highlights the album’s combination knock out punch of Super Producer Quincy Jones and the unmatched writing abilities of Rod Temperton, former keyboardist of the group, HeatwaveQuincy brings a slickness and high buffed polish to any project he endeavors and renders a product hopelessly impeccable and remarkably tops amongst all releases… always!  And Rod Temperton just fit magically into Quincy’s aura of “The bestest in the Q-Westest.”  Rod wrote or co-wrote monster Hit songs like “Boogie Nights,” “Always and Forever,” “Grooveline” (Heatwave), “Thriller,” “Rock With You,” “Lady In My Life” (Michael Jackson), “Stomp” (Brothers Johnson), “Baby Come To Me” (James Ingram & Patti Austin), “Yah Mo B There” (James Ingram & Michael McDonald), “Secret Garden” (Quincy Jones) and “You Put A Move On My Heart” (Tamia).  Well, Rod also wrote “Give Me The Night” and our next song for George Benson’s same titled album as produced by Q.  Here’s my fav from the album, the Rod Temperton composition, “Love X Love.”


posted by funkjazzmusic

Back in those early days, it was all about the Guitar Playing for George.  Rumor had it, he was thought to be the natural replacement for the void left with the heart attack death of the great Wes Montgomery in ’68.  The similarity in their styles of playing had a lot to do with that claim; Wes influenced most Jazz guitarists that came along after he peaked.  In what many believe to be Benson’s most acclaimed artistic statement, he released the White Rabbit album in ’72.  This psychedelic Jefferson Airplane song was an extremely famous song in Rock/Pop circles and Benson was putting his Jazz spin on it.  One of the more popular songs from the album is a song he does wonderfully with Detroit Guitarist, Earl Klugh… prepare to be mesmerized by their phenomenal live performance of, “El Mar.”


posted by cminor7add9th

Though George had sung on recordings like, “My Cherie Amour” and “Tell It Like It Is,” as early as 1969, none of his vocal performances resonated with his Jazz audience like the vocals on “This Masquerade,” when they exploded into the hearts of his brand new R&B followers.  This was the only song Benson sang on in the whole Breezin’ collection from 1976.  The album went triple platinum and “This Masquerade” won a Grammy for Song of the Year.  Although he had been recording since ‘64 and had released 14 previous albums, some of them highly acclaimed Jazz albums, “This Masquerade” put George Benson on the map as an R&B singing sensation.


posted by FunkSoBrudda

I’m sure George wasn’t the first to scat along with the notes he’s playing on guitar but most guitarists scat in silenceGeorge decided to let his adoring fans hear his scatting-while-playing and it gave him another layer of uniqueness.  This technique is really displayed on Benson’s cover of the LTD hit, “Love Ballad.”


posted by jaykayoz

Why did George Benson elect to have nose surgery?  Well, he’s not hollerin’ at your boy with something so deeply personal but… although I’m a man… Benson looked just fine to me.  He was always a handsome guy and he was the last person I expected to see get a nose job.  Good thing is it didn’t change his singing or guitar pickin’ any so I’m gonna leave it right there.  Check him out being his regular “BAD” self performing one of his most significant career bolstering songs, “On Broadway.”


posted by ijazzmunki

Some of Benson’s critics think he sings too much and plays his instrument too little.  As you have seen, when he performs live, he does a lot of both.  He has a vast repertoire of songs that show off his virtuosity as a vocalist and a guitarist.  To be such a great guitarist, it’s amazing he can sing so well.  God doesn’t often pass out that much diverse talent to any one human being.  What’s even more amazing is for him to have such an incredible voice, why did it take him so long to decide to feature it?  Yes, George proves you can be a superb stand-out Jazz guitarist with an impeccable singing voice.  And if you got it… George “BAD” Benson, you are well within your rights… TO FLAUNT IT!  Peace!

Yours Musically,

Reuben Yabuku


posted by gilbraque111