free website hit counter Spiced Tea & Letters: Jazz Soul

Friday, November 25, 2005

Jazz Soul

Oh yeah. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. George Benson. With the 1976 release Breezin’ GB sought to catch folks off guard, so he slipped a vocal on the remake of ‘This Masquerade’ and permanently tilted the trajectory of his already well-groovin’ jazz career. Breezin’ went multiple times platinum. Jazz fans enjoyed the sparkle of pride in there eyes for his mainstream success but also became possessive because their jazz guitarist had acquired admirers other than listeners who appreciated the fundamentals of swing.

I hate to imagine if he decided to keep his deliciously homegrown voice to himself. By now we’d still have a legendary guitarist, which is fine. But, how fly is it to vocalize alongside your guitar chords? His way of paralleling the two has decidedly become his tradmark– this is what we expect from George Benson, this is how we know it’s a GB track. (Although it took me a minute to realize that the song 'Inside Love/So personal' was George Benson – I didn’t know, I had it on a mix tape for years! Plus, I was like 6 years-old when it dropped.)

And, even though the 80s pulled George Benson further into the R&B world (with production work by Kashif) his singing voice, chocked full of over-enunciations, could still be identified as jazz vocal styling. Even uber-producer Qunicy Jones was caught up in the R&B rapture. From Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall, to his own dance machine record The Dude, you weren’t sure if Qunicy and partner in crime, songwriter Rod Temperton, gave jazz a rest permanently. 'Give Me The Night', a QJ production, is one of those tracks DJs slip into the gettin’ down medley of Chaka Khan’s 'I Know You, I Live You'; Frankie Beverly and Maze’s 'Before I Let You Go'; James D-Train Williams 'You’re The One For Me', etcetera.

If George Benson ever comes to BB Kings, I will be there a day early. I’ve never seen him perform. Sad, sad, sad. And, on top of that, he was at all the major jazz festivals this year (which I missed. Not trying to be a junketeering additct like ole boy from John Henry Days). And, anyway, I might hurt myself at his show, cause I’d be up there in the front row going bananas. They might have to put me on stage alongside the vocal accompaniment, for real. Believe it or not, this is on my to-do list for 2006. Okay, I have a separate to-do list, one for serious life decisions and the other is for live shows. Some folks who are scratched off: Roy Ayers, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, seen ‘em. Folks who still remain: Al Jareaux, Santana, Patti Labelle and GB.


At 8:33 PM, Blogger Marcus Harris said...

I saw George perform at the Hampton Jazz Festival in 2001, and, believe me, he's The Truth. I've had it for his music since I was a child; my parents played "This Masquerade" and "Give Me The Night" all the time back in the late 70's and early 80's.

Thanks for this homage to George. His musical genius definitely gets overlooked far too often.

At 11:23 PM, Blogger Laylah Queen of the Night said...

You are lucky, man! I'm sure his live show is nuts! Thank you for the feedback!

At 9:32 AM, Blogger defiant goddess said...

I would love to see SW & EW&F. They are my faves! And GB ... man, he's got a nice sound! Q is one of my heroes. I have this fantasy that he'll listen to my music someday and tell me it's da bomb. :)

At 4:27 PM, Blogger bigmanKY said...

Did you catch "Blue Benson", a mid-80's rerelease of his earlier non-vocal jazz work (vinyl, on Polydor)? Strength. At the time some said he was just a watered down Wes Montgomery, but I still have respect. Don't forget Earl Klugh, the other jazz guitar master. I caught him at Carnegie in '78. Autograph (and handshake)!

At 5:25 PM, Blogger Laylah Queen of the Night said...

Earl Klugh, oh yeah. Well, thanks for stopping by! I have to check out this GB album you mentioned. I'm telling you, GB is the truth. I absolutely dig the man.

Goddess- I think EW&F are touring, check out their schedule! Q has been the man forever.


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