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Old Mar 18, 2010, 08:44 PM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Jazz Feature for March 22:"The George Benson Cookbook".

George Benson was a real prodigy. He is a self-taught musician who was playing professionally when he was 10! He even recorded for RCA when he was 10 as well! He was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania on this day (March 22) in 1943 so this Feature is also a Birthday tribute to the great Mr. Benson. George will be playing, for the first time at this year's T.D. Vancouver International Jazz Festival where he'll perform at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on June 26. He'll be one of this year's major attractions. There must be something in the drinking water in Pittsburg as three great natural talents were born there....drummer Art Blakey, pianist Erroll Garner and Benson. All three had no formal music education nor could they read music but they all became major and influential Jazz musicians. Benson went on the road with organist (Brother) Jack McDuff and got his first national exposure in that band that also had tenor saxophonist Red Holloway and drum powerhouse Joe Dukes. This writer first heard Benson with McDuff in early 1964 at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco and was impressed with not only the band but especially by Benson. Benson also recorded his first album with that band for Prestige Records called "The New Boss Guitar". That title was no exaggeration. When Benson left McDuff in 1966, he formed his own band with Lonnie Smith (before he became The Doctor) on organ, either Jimmy Lovelace or Marion Booker or Billy Kaye on drums and the incredible Ronnie Cuber on baritone saxophone. Benson also began singing as well. This period is the subject of tonight's Jazz Feature as we'll present his second album for Columbia Records called "The George Benson Cookbook". Benson later signed with CTI Records and later Warner Bros. and other labels and made many crossover recordings into the pop music field, singing and playing and of course took his share of knocks from the straight-laced Jazz community. These records brought him a whole new and wider audience, fame and financial security but Benson, when called upon, can hold his own with any Jazz guitarist in the world and he has proven this time and time again in recent years.

An anecdote will reveal the extent of Benson's natural talent. I'll leave out names but this is a true story. A very close friend of this writer was enjoying some success as a leader of a popular Jazz group and was using, at the recommendation of his bass player, a very fine guitarist. This guitarist worked hard at mastering my friend's music and at rehearsals could navigate and read the charts but when it came to improvising on some of the tunes, he was a little slow coming to grips with the changes and shifts in the music. After a time my friend (the band leader) got a number of prestigious dates including a concert at Carnegie Hall. He decided to make a change and hired George Benson. Benson couldn't read the charts but listened as the band ran down the tunes. After hearing the compositions ONCE....Benson could not only play the lines but improvise on the changes and negotiate the shifts on a level that the other guitarist couldn't come anywhere near. That's natural talent and an amazing ear!

"The George Benson Cookbook" has his core group including all the aformentioned drummers (Kaye, Lovelace and Booker) plus two tunes featuring The Jazz Show's favourite trombonist: Bennie Green as an honoured guest. This fine album is our Birthday tribute to one of the masters of modern Jazz guitar.

The Feature on George Benson will be heard shortly after 11pm and we'll have some great musical surprises right from the start at 9pm......see you then.........................
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