George Benson

BIOGRAPHY – George Benson

George Benson was born March 22, 1943 and is hailed as one of the Jazz greats, however he is also recognized in Funk, R&B, pop and funk rock, playing both the guitar and archtop guitar, but also singing. Benson uses a rest-stroke picking technique similar to that of gypsy jazz players such as Django Reinhardt.
Benson himself is at the center of a unique musical story that stretches all the way back to his early childhood. His career in music began at the age of 7 when he first played the ukele in a shop, and was paid a small amount for it. Soon he was playing guitar on Friday and Saturday nights in an unlicensed nightclub, which was subsequently shut down by the police. At just 10 years old he recorded his first single, which was called “She Makes Me Mad”. Then he had stopped singing for the most part to concentrate further on his instrumental efforts. His music taste moved toward jazz, owing to his experience with records by Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian and Charlie Parker.
In the early 1960’s, Benson met and formed a band with organist Jack McDuff, a partnership that was short but invaluable to his music education and left to form his own band. He began his solo career with “The New Boss Guitar” (1964), which attracted attention from John Hammond, a scout from Columbia Records, who quickly signed Benson, who then went on to record two solo albums for the label. He worked then as a session musician and recorded with numerous other artists, notably “Miles in the Sky” (1968) by Miles Davis.
After leaving Columbia in the late 60’s, Benson recorded with a variety of different labels, looking for a way to reincorporate vocals into his repertoire, but this idea was rejected by producers and record label executives alike. Finally, one producer listened. Tommy LiPuma worked with Benson on such an album, and the result was “Breezin’” (1967), the first ever Jazz record to reach platinum sale status. This album housed a number of great hits, such as the title track, a cover of “This Masquerade” and “Give Me the Night”. As the 70’s progressed, Benson and LiPuma released a string of successful records, enhancing Benson’s reputation. In the mid 90’s Benson and LiPuma went to GRP records, where they began to record again, producing still more successful albums such as “That’s Right” (1996) and “Standing Together” (1998).
“Absolute Benson” (2000) was the first record to appear after the millennium, with no indicators of slowing down. Records followed such as the soulful “Irreplaceable” (2004) and “Givin’ It Up”(2006), a collaboration with Al Jarreau that won two Grammy Awards and signified his debut with Concord Records/Monster Music debut.
Since the start of the millennium, Benson has shown no signs of slowing down. Some of his more notable offerings of the past decade include Absolute Benson (2000), the sexy and soulful Irreplaceable (2004), and Givin’ It Up (2006), a duet recording with Al Jarreau that scored two Grammy Awards and marked his Concord Records / Monster Music debut. His latest effort is “Songs and Stories” (2009) and he is currently touring in support of that record.