George Benson: Songs And Stories (Concord Jazz 0888072303645)
Ah, it’s the other gorgeous George. For some weak-minded reason every time a new George Benson album comes out I am interested enough to hear it and hope that it will be as good as the early ones – that the guitar playing will match those real jazz discs he made in the 1960s, that he will once more skirt pop music in the subtle way he did on his first few Warner Bros discs.
And every time I am mostly disappointed but still mildly entertained in places.
Well, this time it’s mostly entertainment and only mild disappointment. This is probably the closest Benson has got to the vibe of Breezin’ and In Flight since, well, Breezin’ and In Flight.
Listen to his solo and skat solo on Show Me The Love, the way the beat changes up a gear for the solo on Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, and his gospel vocal on A Telephone Call Away. The last named is a lovely duet with Lalah Hathaway with sumptuous strings, Hammond and saxophone (Gerald Albright) accompaniment. Other tunes in this soul-pop selection come from Smokey Robinson (One Like You), Tony Joe White (Rainy Night In Georgia) and Christopher Cross (Sailing). And Nuthin’ But A Party is a fine and funky outing with Norman Brown trading guitar and vocal lines with George, while Marcus does his wiry, popping bass thing beneath.
The tastiness of the arrangements, the overall sound and the great grooves are explained in part by the name Marcus Miller in the credits. But there are other solid gold names there too, like Ray Parker Jr, Wah Wah Watson, Lee Ritenour and Steve Lukather on guitars, Greg Phillinganes on piano, Rod Temperton on keyboards, Paulinho Da Costa on percussion and Tom Scott on saxophone.
It’s like the ’80s and ’90s never happened. Nice one George.