Free Essay

George Benson

In: Film and Music

Submitted By KjL1023
Words 2832
Pages 12
Kyle Lorenzetti
4/18/2015
Professor Chevan
MUS
George Benson
George Benson is one of the most popular male jazz guitarists in the United States. In his lifetime, he has received 20 Grammy nominations and has won 10 Grammy awards. George Benson is known for playing his Ibanez guitar and his method of playing, which uses a rest-stroke picking technique, is similar to players of gypsy jazz. His style of playing, tone and melody is incredible. He worked with many of the jazz greats, from Wes Montgomery, Jack McDuff, Miles David, Count Basie Orchestra, Lonnie Smith and Ronnie Cuber. He performed at top places all over the world, and packed them all. His audiences were rich and poor, made up of all races, all religions and all nationalities. In fact, many of them had just one factor in common – they all loved him. George Benson is truly one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time.
George Benson was born on March 22, 1943, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was raised in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, the eldest son of a family of six children. His mother was an aid at the nearby hospital and the family was very poor. George lived in a house without electricity until he was seven. The Hill District of Pittsburg was filled with jazz talent at the time. There were numerous jazz clubs all over the city and little George was surrounded by the sound. He showed talent at an early age. His parents taught him to sing and at the age of 4, he won a singing contest at a local 4th of July concert. His step father knew how to play guitar and at the age of 7, his step-father found an old ukulele in the trash, glued it back together and taught George the basics of guitar. (Bio) George would play on the streets of the city and in the local nightclubs and was discovered by a man named Harry Tepper in 1953. He asked George’s parents if he could take him the New York to make a record. George recorded four sides for RCA Victor’s X Records in the mid-1950s, enjoying a short career as a child radio performer under the name of “Little Georgie Benson.” Harry Tepper moved out to California, and George went back to Pittsburg where his stepfather wanted him to concentrate on developing his instrumental talent. By his late teens, Benson began to concentrate exclusively on the guitar and formed his own rock band at 17. George did attend Connely Vocational High School but his late night gigs at the clubs was interfering with his school work and the principle gave him an ultimatum- school or music. (Bio) George quit school 2 weeks before graduation. George had no formal guitar training and taught himself by ear. He would go backstage in the clubs and watch and listen to some of the jazz greats who played there at the time. His interest in jazz came from exposure to his step-father’s records of artists such as guitarists Charlie Christian, Grant Green and Wes Montgomery, and saxophonist Charlie Parker.

George Benson began his career working as a guitarist and singer, performing with a succession of rhythm-and-blues and rock bands in the corner pubs of his native Pittsburgh. In the early 1960s, Benson apprenticed with organist Jack McDuff, and by the age of 21, recorded his first album as a band leader. He recorded his debut album in 1964, The New Boss Guitar, with McDuff on organ. After playing and recording with McDuff for four years, Benson set out on his own and moved to New York City, which was then the jazz capital of the world. It was during this early period of his career that Benson would meet his wife of over 40 years, Johnnie, whom he married in 1965. They would have seven children together, all of them boys. While in New York, Benson formed his own band and met two acquaintances that would become major influences in his path to stardom: guitarist Wes Montgomery and Columbia Records producer and executive John Hammond.

It was Wes Montgomery, one of jazz’s most creative guitar players, who discovered Benson early, complimenting and encouraging the young guitarist to continue his already impressive work. Montgomery would prove to be Benson’s most important inspiration in the style of playing that he would develop. John Hammond, the Columbia Records executive, was a talent scout who made Benson one of his major discoveries in 1965. He was impressed with Benson’s list of credit, having worked with such artists as Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis. In 1965, Hammond signed Benson to Columbia, for which he would record three albums. His first album, It’s Uptown, featured Lonnie Smith on organ and Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax. This album, along with his second album, Benson Burner, was produced by Hammond earned the young guitarist plenty of positive attention in the jazz community. Benson then followed up his first two albums with The George Benson Cookbook in 1966, also featuring Lonnie Smith and Ronnie Cuber.

While working on albums with Hammond, Benson also found time to do side projects, one of which was working with Miles Davis in the mid-1960s. Davis employed Benson for his services for his 1967 Columbia release, Miles in the Sky, with Benson playing guitar on the song “Paraphernalia.” However, Benson was searching for wider public recognition, switching labels several times. He left Columbia and ended up with Verve in 1967, recording three albums, and then with A&M in 1968. Benson was influenced by jazz producer Creed Taylor, who had worked with Benson’s first real mentor, Wes Montgomery. Shortly after the death of Montgomery in June 1968, Taylor began recording Benson with various large ensembles on A&M from 1968 to 1969 and big groups and all-star combos on the CTI label from 1971 to 1976. The A&M and CTI albums made Benson a guitar star in the jazz world, but the vocal tracks he cut on the albums revived his interest in singing, and this importance on vocals would prove to be a vital part of his later successes.

In late 1975, Benson signed with Warner Brothers, yet another label change that would pave the way for his breakthrough into the mass market. Despite his early success, George desired to combine his singing and guitar playing. Music producer Tommy LiPuma was able to combine his talents, resulting in Breezin’, the first jazz record to attain platinum sales. This 1976 hit was the first in a long list of albums Benson would record with Warner Brothers. The album included a pop-oriented vocal track, the Leon Russell composition “This Masquerade,” which featured the guitarist scatting along with his guitar solo break. The song reached the number one position on the Jazz and R&B charts, winning a Grammy Award for Record of the Year, and pushed the album to the same position on the pop charts. The album won three Grammy Awards and became the best-selling jazz album of all time.

Breezin’ brought the instrumental title track to jazz radio and was also the introduction of Benson’s trademark: scat singing along with his guitar. The scat singing provided Benson a special relationship between him and his guitar. “When I pick up the guitar, it’s an extension of what I am,” Benson told Guitar Player magazine. (Gazette) At first, Benson’s singing drew criticism in the studio when he tried to experiment with his new guitar sound. “The first time I tried to sing along with my guitar, everybody in the studio booed,” said Benson. “They all said it wouldn’t work. When I got with Tommy LiPuma all that changed. He said ‘Sure, let’s go with some vocals, see where we get.’ And you know what happened after that.” (Gazette) From this point on, Benson would follow up the success of Breezin’ with a series of commercially successful albums that would mostly emphasize his singing.

Through the late-1970s, Benson continued to record albums for the Warner Brothers and CTI labels. His recordings were becoming more pop-oriented, with more of an emphasis on his singing rather than his guitar playing. Benson began to receive criticism from jazz traditionalists who felt that he had abandoned his early artistry for pop success. “I guess that’s the biggest crime I’ve made as far as jazz lovers go,” offered Benson. “They don’t always like to see you play for the general public. I’ve always tried to let my experience show itself. You learn, you change. The door opened and I walked through it.” (Bio) Despite this criticism, Benson enjoyed tremendous commercial success, particularly with his 1978 album, Weekend in L.A., which featured the Grammy Award-winning live take of “On Broadway.” The hit album reached number one on the Jazz and R&B charts and also reached number five on the U.S. pop chart.

The jazz guitar work that made him famous returned in 1989, as Benson reversed his field from pop to jazz with a fine album of standards, Tenderly, with the legendary jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. After going on tour with Tyner’s trio that year, Benson recorded another album of jazz standards, Big Boss Band, with Count Basie’s Orchestra in 1990. His guitar was now again featured more prominently in the 1990s, along with a noticeable improvement in his pop-flavored work. Benson’s return to jazz was a showcase for his versatility as a musician, with his ability to play with a wide variety of arrangements: from small ensembles to big bands, with a string section, with hard bop, and with Latin-inflected selections. In 1992, Benson once again played with Jack McDuff, appearing on his album Color Me Blue. He then left Warner Brothers after recording his 1993 album Love Remembers and signed with the jazz-oriented GRP label in 1996, releasing the album That’s Right. That same year, Benson was honored at the 10th anniversary of the Mellon Jazz Festival in Pittsburgh. In 1998, Benson returned to the studio to record the smooth jazz album Standing Together.

Even through all of his successes, George’s life had been hit by personal tragedy. He and his wife lost three of their seven sons, one to kidney failure, one to crib death, and one to gunshot injuries stemming from a bar fight. In 1998, he was asked by Mohammed Al Fayed to write a song in commemoration of his son, Dodi, who died along with his friend Princess Diana of England in a 1997 automobile crash in Paris. (Bio) Benson shared the song with his wife and talked about the emotional effect it had on him. “During the writing, I asked my wife to come listen to what I had written,” Benson was quoted as saying in Jet. “But when I got to certain parts, it became too difficult. My lips were trembling. I was thinking about my own losses and couldn’t get past it. It stopped me cold.” (Gazette) Through it all, Benson has managed to keep moving on.

George Benson is among the 2009 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters and was honored at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on October 17, 2008. Benson continues to keep busy, recording new songs and touring the world, performing over 100 shows a year. He is currently living a private life in Arizona and is back in the studio recording a new album.

Song Analysis
George Benson “Bossa Rocka.” The George Benson Cookbook, 1966.
This piece, performed by George in 1968 has , as indicated in the name, a true bossa nova sound mixed with the smooth jazz guitar .The Brazilian jazz style of music, bossa nova, permeates the entire song by the percussion and creates an upbeat Latin type feel to this song. The drums and shaker set the syncopated base to the song. Then George adds his smooth, relaxing guitar playing with a great melody. The organ accompanies the melody of the guitar and rounds out the entire piece by echoing responses to Benson’s guitar at times, and carrying the tune at others. This song is very mellow while being upbeat and catchy. On one hand it makes you want to move, but then relaxing.

George Benson. “What’s New?” Giblet Gravy 1968.
George Benson combines some amazing guitar playing with very aggressive piano playing of Herbie Hancock. The song starts out a very soft guitar and some light bass and drums; it almost sounds Hawaiian. The guitar then picks up and begins its melody. The piano then enters and the piece explodes with a combination of guitar, piano, drums and bass; a classic quartet. The guitar and piano go back and forth with the melody, with each instrument having its solo. The piano solo adds a bluesy feel. The guitar and piano are a perfect complement for each other with both taking center stage in this song.

George Benson. “This Masquerade.” Breezin’, 1976.
This song opens with George scatting with the guitar, but it seems like he is actually scatting the sound of the guitar. You wonder if there is even a guitar playing there. This is a very different and interesting technique. He continues this technique throughout the song when the vocals stop and it’s only instrumental, but with him scatting as well. The songs then moves on to the vocals with piano and drums and background orchestra. We don’t hear much guitar at this point. The vocal melody takes over. The piano is the major accompaniment to the vocal at this point. When the first vocal piece ends, the guitar comes in with George scatting in and out. The guitar has its solo, and then it’s the piano’s turn for a solo. The solos don’t follow the melody of the vocal, but have their own tune. The song then goes back to more vocal and ends with George scatting to the guitar. This song won a Grammy for Record of the Year and was a huge commercial success.

Biography

Benson Honored. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 26 Sep. 2008.
Ginell, Richard S. “George Benson – Biography.” Allmusic. 28 Apr. 2009.
George Benson – The Official Site.” GeorgeBenson.com. 28 Apr. 2009
George Benson “Bossa Rocka.” The George Benson Cookbook, 1966.
George Benson. “This Masquerade.” Breezin’, 1976.
George Benson. “What’s New?” Giblet Gravy 1968.
Jazz Greats Lined Up For Mellon Festival’s 10th Year. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 24 Apr. 1996.

Song Analysis
Bossa Rocka:
This piece, performed by George in 1968 has , as indicated in the name, a true bossa nova sound mixed with the smooth jazz guitar .The Brazilian jazz style of music, bossa nova, permeates the entire song by the percussion and creates an upbeat Latin type feel to this song. The drums and shaker set the syncopated base to the song. Then George adds his smooth, relaxing guitar playing with a great melody. The organ accompanies the melody of the guitar and rounds out the entire piece by echoing responses to Benson’s guitar at times, and carrying the tune at others. This song is very mellow while being upbeat and catchy. On one hand it makes you want to move, but then relaxing.

What’s New:
George Benson combines some amazing guitar playing with very aggressive piano playing of Herbie Hancock. The song starts out a very soft guitar and some light bass and drums; it almost sounds Hawaiian. The guitar then picks up and begins its melody. The piano then enters and the piece explodes with a combination of guitar, piano, drums and bass; a classic quartet. The guitar and piano go back and forth with the melody, with each instrument having its solo. The piano solo adds a bluesy feel. The guitar and piano are a perfect complement for each other with both taking center stage in this song.

This Masquerade
This song opens with George scatting with the guitar, but it seems like he is actually scatting the sound of the guitar. You wonder if there is even a guitar playing there. This is a very different and interesting technique. He continues this technique throughout the song when the vocals stop and it’s only instrumental, but with him scatting as well. The songs then moves on to the vocals with piano and drums and background orchestra. We don’t hear much guitar at this point. The vocal melody takes over. The piano is the major accompaniment to the vocal at this point. When the first vocal piece ends, the guitar comes in with George scatting in and out. The guitar has its solo, and then it’s the piano’s turn for a solo. The solos don’t follow the melody of the vocal, but have their own tune. The song then goes back to more vocal and ends with George scatting to the guitar. This song won a Grammy for Record of the Year and was a huge commercial success.

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Relationship Betweeen the Individual and the Community

...How does George Eliot represent the relationship between the individual and community in Silas Marner? George Eliot represents the relationship between the individual and the community in the novel Silas Marner (1861). Written in the Victorian era, Eliot sets this novel within the Regency era, early 19th century. This period was characterized by the influence of the French revolution, crowning of the Prince Regent after the confirmed insanity of King George III and rise of meritocracy opposed to aristocracy through service in the military. Eliot empathizes with the poorer people in rural areas and scrutinizes the Aristocracy seen through the gentry. She depicts the transformation of the roles of women and beginnings of industrialization. Relationships between the individual and community is shown through the characters of Silas; how he integrates into society, the character of Dolly; who depicts the role of women in the community and through reaching out to silas and finally through the location; The Rainbow in bringing the community together as a place for rest after work and to help people in crisis. The connection between the individual and the community is seen through the character of Silas and his transformation from being a recluse to an active member in society. Silas is a solitary figure who self excludes himself from the community of Raveloe due to his past experiences in Lantern Yard. This had extremely detrimental effects on Silas and as a result he becomes...

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