1. Playboy Jazz Festival, Day 2 Review

    June 16, 2010 by admin

    George Benson

    (Hollywood Bowl, 17,372 seats, $20-$150) Presented by Playboy Enterprises. Reviewed June 13, 2010.

    Emcee: Bill Cosby.
    Performers: George Benson, with Earl Klugh; Manhattan Transfer; Salif Keita; Tiempo Libre; Bobby Hutcherson and Cedar Walton; Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra; Esperanza Spalding; Robert Randolph and the Family Band; Cos’ of Good Music, with Ingrid Jensen, Jay Hoggard, D.D. Jackson, Mark Gross, Ron Johnson, Dwayne Burno, Ndugu Chancler; Jazz Mafia’s Brass Bows and Beats; L.A. All-District High School Band.

    It’s dangerous to speculate which program of the two-day Playboy Jazz Festival will be the better one just by glancing at the lineup. Most of the time, you will be wrong. Someone might be having an off-day, one act doesn’t flow comfortably into the next, an overlooked veteran or a newcomer will suddenly get hot, the partying crowd might be distracted or drunk or obsessed with the Lakers game. Case in point: the Saturday concert outpointed Sunday’s in musical interest and energy level. Yet when the sun vanished behind the trees at the Hollywood Bowl, Sunday’s program was suddenly jolted to life by a man from Mali —  and the wave he generated rolled through the rest of the night.

    It was the great band of Salif Keita — the albino Malian superstar making his Playboy Festival debut — that launched the roll with one monster groove after another, accomplished with pithy, perfectly placed notes on Western electric guitars and thundering African percussion.

    Keita, 60, mostly stood stock still, radiating dignity amid the turbocharged grooves, his voice maybe not as spectacularly keening as it once was, but now often almost conversational in character.

    Material from his album “La Difference” (Emarcy), like “Ekolo d’Amour,” sounded tougher and more driving live — and Keita and company found it easier to get the dancing audience to sing along than did the domestic acts on the bill. It was a shining Playboy fest moment.

    Fortunately, the Manhattan Transfer, which followed Keita, wasn’t intimidated, offering up a smoking jazz-oriented set of their own — with a terrific, seasoned backup band, too. Their vocalise arrangement of Chick Corea’s “Spain” picked up on Keita’s energy — and sprinkled throughout the set were more Corea covers from their adventurous current album, “The Chick Corea Songbook” (4Q). If Chick himself, who performed Saturday, had sat in, it might have been as explosive as that now-storied set at Playboy 1982 when the Transfer joined Weather Report.

    George Benson knew what to do, too. He mixed up his set a bit — starting with vocals, then reaching for the instrumentals with a fine “Mambo Inn,” and bringing out a surprise guest, guitarist Earl Klugh, for a journey back to their album “Collaboration.” The presence of Klugh kicked in something for Benson — and from that point on, his guitar went deeper and deeper into the pocket. Any guitarist would trade his rare instrument collection for just one of the incredibly funky fills that Benson pulled off in “Give Me the Night.”

    Tiempo Libre, the Cuban expatriate band from Miami, inherited the dancers from Benson and skillfully kept them gyrating until the evening’s end with satisfying Afro-Cuban party grooves sometimes derived from erudite sources (as per their training) like J. S. Bach.

    Oddly enough, the most anticipated performance — that of last year’s hit, Esperanza Spalding — was a bit of a letdown. There’s no doubt about her striking stage presence, versatile feminine voice, expertise on standup and electric basses, and the unusual joy and passion she radiates. But with a good but not great band and a lack of powerful material, she failed to connect with the audience in any meaningful way, her desperate attempts to generate a singalong in vain.The Jimi Hendrix of the pedal steel guitar, Robert Randolph — who was impressive in his previous Playboy appearance — was also disappointing; again, subpar material may have been to blame. The set by vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and pianist Cedar Walton was somnolent, often inaudible, serving as mere dinner jazz for the crowd.

    Irvin Mayfield brought his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra — which, if you looked from a distance and squinted, resembled an old photo of a New Orleans band circa 1910. But Mayfield had a more contemporary political agenda in mind, savaging BP with a wild extended piece, “Somebody Forgot to Turn the Faucet Off.” He barely missed setting off the day’s first wild crowd response, cutting off a bumpy swinging blues just as it was rolling.Regarding this year’s Cos’ of Good Music, even the wretchedly balanced sound could not quite obscure the smoothly swinging trumpet of Ingrid Jensen. But the engineers succeeded in making an almost unintelligible hash of Jazz Mafia’s performance of Adam Theis’ fascinating “Brass Bows And Beats: A Hip-Hop Symphony.” There’s a lot more to this constantly jump-cutting assembly of spare parts from every idiom imaginable than we were allowed to hear.

    Read the full article at:

  2. Tour Update

    June 9, 2010 by admin


    We are currently finalizing a summer tour throughout Europe and Africa along with a run of dates in Australia this November.  New dates can be found here.

  3. New tour dates

    April 8, 2010 by admin

    We just added a few new shows to our summer schedule.  Chicago in August and Curacao in September.  Check out all of the dates here.

  4. The Sunday Independent – Cape Town

    April 6, 2010 by admin

    By Atiyyah Khan

    A charismatic George Benson thrilled journalists with stories, speaking openly and with ease on his arrival at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, taking a trip down memory lane.

    He described his earliest days as a musician, as a “speed-demon” guitarist, and traced how it was that he learnt to slow down.

    “I see a whole new South Africa. It’s nice to see the sun shining on a lot of people’s faces here, it’s a warm feeling and a whole fresh new vibe.”

    Benson was honoured with an official multi-platinum award from Universal Music for Africa for sales of more than half-a-million units and a gold award from Warner Music Gallo for the Givin’ It Up album he recorded with Al Jarreau.

    “I told my manager to call Al Jarreau and let him know that something very special is going to go down in South Africa and congratulate him, so can I take that back to him? I really thank you for this award.”

    With a sold-out Cape Town jazz festival, more than 16 000 jazz fanatics were due to attend the first night of the festival last night, where Benson was to play with a 28-piece orchestra in a tribute to Nat King Cole.

    “(Cole) brought a lot of class to African-American musicians, at the time going through some challenges in the US. His music was some of the biggest crossover of his time, and it’s still fresh and high-class today.”

    Benson is one of the few musicians who get to play on both days of the festival. One of his musical highlights, he says, was being commended by Sinatra.

    “I found out he was a gigantic fan of my voice. I was like, ‘Can anybody say anything else to me now’?”

  5. Michel Legrand’s 50th Anniversary Tribute March 27

    March 23, 2010 by admin

    Three-time Oscar and five-time GRAMMY Award-winner Michel Legrand will perform a tribute to his 50 years of music and movies at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday, March 27. The event is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

    Over the course of his 50-year career, Legrand has composed more than 200 film and television scores as well as several musicals. Legrand was only 22 years old when his first album, I Love Paris, became one of the best-selling instrumental albums ever released. He is a virtuoso jazz and classical pianist as well as accomplished arranger and conductor who performs with orchestras worldwide.

    During the show, Legrand will conduct a 66-piece orchestra and perform with many of his superstar friends such as George Benson, Jones, Flack, Warwick, Steve Lawrence, Melissa Manchester, Neil Sedaka, Jerry Lewis, Andy Williams,  and Patti Page. The event will pay musical tribute to some of Legrand’s Academy Award-winning MGM movies including “Yentl,” “Thomas Crown Affair” and “Summer of 42.” The superstar extravaganza also will be captured on film for a made-for-TV-special to air at a later date.

    Tickets priced at $150, $85 and $62.50, not including applicable service charges and taxes, go on sale Saturday, Feb. 20 at noon and will be sold at all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations (select Smith’s Food and Drug Centers and Ritmo Latino). Ticket sales are limited to eight (8) per person. To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.   Tickets also are available for purchase at MGM Grand or Ticketmaster.

  6. Monster Turbine Contest Winner

    March 16, 2010 by admin

    Congratulations to Walt Patterson for winning the Monster Gold Edition Turbine Contest!

  7. Tour Update

    February 25, 2010 by admin

    We just updated the tour dates section with 7 shows in the UK at the end of May and first week of June as well as new dates in Concord, CA and Kansas City, MO.

    For more info click here.

  8. Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards

    January 20, 2010 by admin

    The 6th annual Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards takes place FRIDAY APRIL 23RD, 2010 in Hammerson Hall at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ontario where George will be honored for contributing to the success of the Smooth Jazz format in Canada. David Sanborn will be honored with the 2010 George Benson Lifetime Achievement Award.

    All nominations are posted on the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards website and you can vote here.

  9. Songs And Stories High Definition Surround Super Disc

    December 16, 2009 by admin

    To give fans a new level of audio and video quality, Songs And Stories has been released on the high definition surround (HDS) format and is available at Best Buy NOW.

  10. The George Benson Sessions: The Making of Songs And Stories

    December 13, 2009 by admin

    When creating Songs And Stories we decided to video tape the recording sessions and give you a look into the making of the record.  Those sessions were the heart of The George Benson Sessions: The Making of Songs And Stories.  We just uploaded the last video It Aint Over which you can view on the front page our the site or at our Official You Tube Channel.