Legendary jazz guitarist GEORGE BENSON will release his new (and, yes, his 45th!) album “Walking To New Orleans” on April 26th via Provogue/Mascot Label Group.
On the disc, the iconic musician pays homage to the pioneers of rock & roll: Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.
Speaking about the album, Benson says: “I’m a great appreciator of the music made by both of those guys...”
“Chuck Berry was a great showman and a great musician, and Fats Domino cut nothing but hit after hit after hit.”
Formerly a child prodigy, Benson came to fame in the 1960s, playing soul jazz with the “hard bop” organist “Brother” Jack McDuff and others. Then he launched his successful solo career. His 1976 soft-jazz album Breezin won multiple awards at the 1977 Grammy Awards and reached #1 on the Billboard album charts.
But where Benson ornamented Cole’s tunes with exuberant orchestral arrangements, “Walking to New Orleans” found Benson hunkered down in Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studios with drummer/engineer Greg Morrow, virtuoso session guitarist Rob McNelley, electric blues pianist Kevin McKendree, and prized session bassist Alison Prestwood. Producer Kevin “caveman” Shirley (Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart ) was at the controls
The Chuck Berry songbook is represented on ‘Walking To New Orleans’ by “Nadine (Is It You?)” “You Can’t Catch Me,” “Havana Moon,” “Memphis, Tennessee,” and “How You’ve Changed” while Fats Domino’s is represented by “Rockin’ Chair,” “Ain’t That a Shame,” “I Hear You Knocking,” “Blue Monday,” and the album’s title track: “Walking…”
The first song to be released from the album is the succulent and bumptious “Nadine (Is It You)” [shared below] It has fruity, big-booty baritone sax and the kind of phatabulous rhythmic quality that will immediately improve your day. Totally groovalicious!
“Ain’t That A Shame” is full of intricate guitar patterns, even though they are often found in the back seat, behind the honky-tonk piano-stool and the shiny brasswork. The voice is as you would expect: abundant, warm and slightly dry. Like a husky varnish on your best-loved piano lid.
“You Can’t Catch Me” (the song that probably inspired Lennon’s “Come Together” from Abbey Road) has buggy rhythms and the kind of Chess Records freshness that takes rock ‘n’ roll from swing-era, lindy hop swing-outs and into jukebox territory via the best 45 rpm singles that were ever made.
The album is an exciting assortment of rockers but it’s not until Dave Bartholomew’s loose-limbed jive “I Hear You Knocking” [covered successfully by Fats in 1961] that we really get to appreciate the honeyed and melodious beauty of Benson’s guitar, especially when it stays close to the thick horns. This is a gift.
So, the guitar? Yes, it’s an homogeneous mixture of secret sorcery: spicy mustards, hot peppers and smoke & sticky molasses. But George never takes control or seeks attention, and, ain’t that a shame? Yeah, maybe it is, but it makes “Walking To New Orleans” an essential collectible for any rock ‘n’ roller, no matter what his or her conviction or persuasions might be [let’s be honest, we may not all appreciate soft jazz!]
This is a brilliant, lasting and invigorating exaltation to two great men.
Walking To New Orleans is due April 26, 2019
See George Benson live in London:
Thurs 18 July – Hammersmith Apollo, London
Fri 19 July – Hammersmith Apollo, London
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