Mosaic Contemporary Reissues 3 Essential George Benson CTI Recordings

 

Seminal recordings Beyond the Blue Horizon, In Concert-Carnegie Hall, & Good King Band set the stage for Breezin'

Guitarist and vocalist George Benson has carved out a place for himself in the music world quite unlike any other artist since Nat King Cole. In the ‘60s, he established himself as the most impressive and soulful guitarist on the jazz scene. And beginning with the overwhelming success of the 1976 recording Breezin', including  his smash hit version of Leon Russell's "This Masquerade", Benson became known as one of the most naturally gifted and versatile singers in popular music.

 

Seminal recordings Beyond the Blue Horizon, In Concert-Carnegie Hall, & Good King Band set the stage for Breezin'

Guitarist and vocalist George Benson has carved out a place for himself in the music world quite unlike any other artist since Nat King Cole. In the ‘60s, he established himself as the most impressive and soulful guitarist on the jazz scene. And beginning with the overwhelming success of the 1976 recording Breezin', including  his smash hit version of Leon Russell's "This Masquerade", Benson became known as one of the most naturally gifted and versatile singers in popular music.

However, between 1971 and 1975, the guitarist made a series of six recordings for Creed Taylor's CTI label that stand as some of his most lasting works, combining straight-ahead jazz, stirring soul, orchestrated pop, and R&B into a cool brew all his own.

Many of these recordings have been out of print for some time and were only available on CD in budget editions with low-quality masters. When planning our initial releases, we at Mosaic Contemporary felt that one of our highest priorities needed to be to reissue these brilliant recordings on the high level of quality that the Mosaic name suggests, with pristine  24-bit mastering, new liner notes, and beautifully reproduced artwork.

With the release of the Mosaic Contemporary versions of Beyond the Blue Horizon, Good King Bad, and In Concert - Carnegie Hall, we have begun to properly document one of the most prolific and musically satisfying periods of George Benson's illustrious career.

Beyond the Blue Horizon

Much has been said about the career arc of guitar great George Benson. There are those who feel that, "once he started singing, he stopped playing guitar." Well, the truth is, he started out as a singer, and prior to Breezin', nearly every Benson release included at least one vocal track. His earlier versions of "Summertime", "Tell It Like It Is", "Here Comes the Sun" and others showed that his combination of instrumental brilliance and natural vocal talent made him a complete artist. (It certainly never hurt Louis Armstrong, Nat Cole or Stevie Wonder.)

However, his 1971 CTI debut Beyond the Blue Horizon was a rarity, a Benson recording with no vocals, just a finger-busting, steady-grooving organ date featuring Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette.  And when it comes to modern jazz guitar playing, it's hard to find a finer representation than the blistering work that is heard on this recording. Highlights include Benson's wonderfully lyrical playing on "Ode to a Kudu", the bossa with a bite "Gentle Rain", and the worldly vibe of "Somewhere in the East". Particularly breathtaking is Benson's solo on the loosely funky "So What". With a pristine-sounding 24-bit master and new liner notes adding a fresh historical perspective, this Mosaic Contemporary edition is a must-have for any serious jazz guitar fan.

In Concert - Carnegie Hall

Due to the huge pop success of "This Masquerade", "On Broadway", "Give Me the Night", and so many other pop and R&B hits, many got to know "George Benson the vocalist who plays guitar." But many jazz fans had long viewed him as "George Benson the guitarist who sings." And although in the years following his breakthrough with Breezin' he would move the instrument to the forefront on several occasions, since his most popular tracks were vocals, some people lose sight of the fact that that as a guitarist, he is simply the baddest cat on the planet.

This stellar live recording, made one year before Breezin', features the guitar master burning through Paul Desmond's "Take Five", Freddie Hubbard's soulful "Sky Dive" and two hard grooving Benson originals. And although he had sung on record previously, his unique vocal approach to Gershwin's "Summertime" raises the bar considerably. 

The few years that followed this special night at Carnegie Hall would see the release of not only Breezin', but the double-live Weekend In L.A. Not to downplay the importance of this later concert recording - it sold a few million copies and included the unforgettable "On Broadway", after all - but In Concert - Carnegie Hall is the ultimate live jazz guitar recording, a valuable document of the greatest guitarist in jazz at the absolute height of his powers.

Good King Bad

Following ten years of solo recordings for Columbia, Verve, A&M, and CTI, guitar great George Benson was primed for a breakout, ready to cross over to a much wider audience. The project that set the stage for his pop breakthrough album, Breezin',was his final official release for CTI Records, Good King Bad. Although Benson had ventured into the R&B territory previously, this marks the first time that he fully integrated his Wes Montgomery-inspired playing into the pop arena. The approach presents a perfect balance between jazz blowing and danceable grooves, announcing the arrival of a major force in pop music.

The stellar cast here includes David Sanborn, Joe Farrell, Don Grolnick, Bobby Lyle, and Steve Gadd. This lineup adeptly interprets Dave Matthews' terrific charts, which include interesting re-workings of Vince Guaraldi's "Cast your Fate to the Wind" and the Memphis soul classic, "Hold On, I'm Coming".

As for Benson, he characterized this recording at the time as "sophisticated rhythm and blues," and there could be no more apt description for Good King Bad's perfect balance between jazz blowing and danceable grooves.

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