On November 13, 2020, the 76-year-old GRAMMY-winning jazz / soul / funk icon GEORGE BENSON will release his ‘Weekend In London,’ a new electrophorus live album that captures his 2019 performance at London’s intimate Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.
“I like that kind of intimacy,” related Benson. “I can feel the love when it’s up close and personal.”
Producer Kevin Shirley added “We captured a lot of the atmosphere on ‘Weekend In London’. It was very crowded, like it always is at Ronnie Scott’s, no matter who’s there. We were almost touching as we were playing, people all up on the bandstand. But I’m always happy to be in those surroundings. A lot of big Benson fans were there – and some of the screaming ladies. It was a fantastic night.”
If Benson sounds right at home on Ronnie Scott’s constrictive stage, that’s because that’s how the story started, many years ago. From the age of seven, the boy with the golden voice known as “Little Georgie Benson” was a fixture on street corners, drug stores, jazz venues, and R&B houses in his native Pittsburgh.
However, the youngster quickly rose through the rankings, cutting his first sides with RCA, at just ten years old. Benson rose to fame in the 1960s, playing soul jazz with “hard bop” organist “Brother” Jack McDuff and others.
His 1976 soft jazz album “Breezin” won multiple awards at the 1977 Grammy Awards and reached number 1 on the Billboard album charts
As Benson’s eternal career spanned decades, he balanced the ineffable teeterboard between virtuosic success and the vehement respect of the jazz cognoscenti while simultaneously unleashing a bounty of upbeat hit singles to merrymakers around the world.
His most recent album release, ‘Walking To New Orleans’ (April 2019) was a reinterpretation of the hits of Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, and we described the record as: “an exciting assortment of rockers […] where we really get to appreciate the honeyed and melodious beauty of Benson’s guitar...”
It’s been a long road and 45 years have passed, from the jook-joints of Pittsburgh to the beating heart of the 21st century London jazz scene. George Benson has been a great company every step of the way. Now, on “Weekend In London” — recorded at the same club that hosted that young hotshot in the early 1970s — we witness the great man re-kindling his old magic as we immerse ourselves, once again, in the ultrasuede smoothness of this stellar artist.
“Turn Your Love Around” is elegant and irrepressible with bright keys, gentle backing vocals and a mischievous riff. The voice is a mixture of swan-feathers and chartreuse. This is sensual gorgeousness!
“Cruise Control” is a typical helping of doobying inner-peace. For many, this is the song that got them into our George. Here, eddies of piano consort regally with exquisite guitar tickles. And the arrangement becomes an expansive goldmine of wizard jazz trinketry and free-and-easy charm. Multidimensional!
Possibly his best known number, “Give Me The Night” is funky and bright. And this performance is irresistible and intoxicating. The pellucidity of the recording is spectacular and the improvisatory moments are worth seeking out. Although you may be familiar with this number, the expressionistic nature of each individual performance of the work means that this track stands as an independent and self-sufficient & hyperkinetic achievement. This is a masterpiece.
Here is a jazz king at the top of his craft. Nothing beats an evening with Benson