George Benson brings smooth style and a soulful strut to Vancouver


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By Steve Newton

After being rocked silly there by the likes of Kim Mitchell and George Thorogood, it was nice to mellow down easy at the Expo Theatre last Saturday (September 6) with the sophisticated uptown jazz of ace guitarist/vocalist George Benson.

After an excellent 40-minute opening set by a Spyro Gyra-like fusion band called Kenny G., Benson and his 10-piece band took the stage. Sharply dressed in an immaculate black suit, George proceeded to woo the sell-out crowd with tunes by Bobby Darin (“one of the greatest singers ever”) and Joe Feliciano’s “Affirmation”, an instrumental tour-de-force from Benson’s breakthrough ’76 LP Breezin’.

Before hitting it big as a singer, Benson used to play guitar for the likes of saxman Hank Crawford, singer Esther Phillips, and trumpeter Miles Davis, and the relaxed style and silky-smooth sound he displayed at Expo Theatre showed why he is so well respected in jazz circles.

Other highlights of the set included his hit ‘Turn Your Love Around” and the vocal showcase “Moody’s Mood”, penned by Eddie Jefferson and James Moody. For that tune Benson brought percussionist/vocalist Annie Stocking out front to sing the part that Patti Austin originally recorded on Benson’s star-studded, Quincy Jones-produced LP Give Me the Night.

During his three-song encore, Benson crooned deliciously on “The Greatest Love of All”, a song that he recorded several years ago, before it became a mega-hit for Whitney Houston. He also sang Leon Russell’s “This Masquerade”, another selection from the Breezin‘ album, and ended off with the soulful strut of “On Broadway”.


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