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By Kernal D. Smith

NEW YORK, 7 NOVEMBER 2009 - Legendary jazz artist George Benson's new CD entitled "Songs and Stories" is the latest in a long line of impressive recordings from the master jazz artist's catalog. While Benson's approach on this latest release is more emphatically flavored with rhythm and blues than previous outings, the album has enough crossover potential to engage the casual listener as well.

At 66, Mr. Benson's trademark guitar licks and vocal skills remain topnotch. His versatility and wide-ranging repertoire continue to please his long-term fans, as well as to draw newer, younger aficionados to his tasty and unique brand of cool.

While Mr. Benson covers many well-known classics, he also performs fresh material written specifically for him by some of the most respected songwriters and musicians in the business.

Producers John Burk and bassist Marcus Miller present us with songs written by Smokey Robinson ("One Like You") and Christopher Cross ("Sailing"). James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" gets a sensual makeover. Mr. Benson's cover of "Rainy Night in Georgia" fits right in with his 70s output, and though not quite as riveting as Brooke Benton's version (how could it be?), this track is poignantly pleasing.

Soul legend Bill Withers' "A Telephone Call Away," while perhaps not among his best compositions, still bears his trademark smooth romanticism. Guest vocalist Lalah Hathaway (daughter of soul legend Donny Hathaway) provides a lovely contrast for Benson's voice on the track. Better is Benson's remake of Rod Temperton's "Family Reunion," which suits Benson's jazzy rhythm and blues style perfectly.

The charm of the CD is its ability to appeal to a varied audience with equally varied tastes. Even if jazz is not your modèle préféré, anytime the music is this rich and the artists this accomplished, the result is a listening experience that's inclusive - marvelous for the casual listener and compelling for those with more sophisticated tastes. From start to finish, the tracks are solid, the mix is delightful and the groove is ever present.

George Benson: Songs and Stories
Concord Records/Monster Music

CALENDAR TIP: chosen by the editors as being of interest to Culturekiosque readers.


George Benson and Band
29 November 2009
Wiener Stadthalle

Kernal D. Smith is a musician based in New York.

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