From his humble beginnings as a child singing and playing ukulele on street corners, George Benson, a master of the jazz guitar, continues to broaden his horizons. With his new album, "Twice the Love," he remains creative, ever growing in the musical experience.
In the late 1960s, Benson recorded with such jazz greats as Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis. He also admired and emulated the music of saxophonist Charlie Parker and guitarist Wes Montgomery.
Benson first came to popular attention with the smash single "This Masquerade," the only vocal on the otherwise instrumental album "Breezin' ".
"This Masquerade" became the first song in music history to hold the No. 1 spots on the jazz, pop and soul charts. "Breezin' " went on to earn three Grammy awards in 1976. It remains the best-selling jazz album of all time.
Benson followed up with "In Flight" in 1978 and "Weekend in L.A.," which included the live version of the Drifters' classic, "On Broadway."
The release of the albums "Livin' Inside Your Love" in 1979 and "Give Me the Night" a year later produced more hit singles for Benson.
The great popularity of "The George Benson Collection" in 1981 and another compilation album, titled "Love Songs," in 1985 proved that Benson's versatility and intuition could make him successful in the popular music market as well as among his jazz fans.
"While the City Sleeps" was succeeded by "Collaboration" with Earl Klugh, which was just that, a brilliant collaboration.
The release of "Twice the Love" again shows Benson's willingness to experiment and desire to grow in his music. It is an effort bound to succeed because of the artist's sure control of his medium and a musical intuition that has brought him a long way.
This week the Deseret News spoke with Benson about the new album and his plans for the future.
Deseret News: How is this album different?
Benson: This is not a jazz album. I worked with several different producers on the songs, so that each one stands on its own, instead of having some hits and a lot of filler. I love what happened.
Deseret News: Do you consider vocals or guitar your strong point?
Benson: (laughs) Well, that is up in the air. The potential for the success of vocals is better, but the instrumental pieces have a lot more longevity. They still sell, even after 20 years.
Deseret News: Do the early jazz influences still play such a strong role for you today _ for instance Charlie Parker?
Benson: For me, Charlie Parker is still the most influential of the jazz musicians. He is the greatest saxophone soloist ever. He shows tremendous creativity.
Deseret News: You said once that you are interested in an acting career. Is that still in the works?
Benson: Yes, it is. I will be in the Wes Montgomery story, next January, playing the part of Wes Montgomery. It is a pleasure for me, and an honor, to play the part of such a tremendous musician, and to share the Wes Montgomery experience with other people that way.
Deseret News: Your "Collaboration" with Earl Klugh was so successful. Do you have other collaborations planned?
Benson: Plans are in the early stages to record with the London Symphony Orchestra. This is one of my own projects, and I hope that it works well and appeals to the rec-ord companies.
Deseret News: Your love songs seem to have a special intensity to them, an ability to really touch the listener. Can you comment on that?
Benson: Most of my love songs are written by other people, but I select them carefully. Love songs last longer because they are so romantic. There will always be love songs, and I like to produce good, fresh ones.
Deseret News: Can you tell us what to expect from the new album?
Benson: "Twice the Love" is not another "Breezin' " album. Examine it for what it is. Listen _ even I had to let it grow on me _ after I did, I had to give it credit.