George Benson

Par Excellence

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No horns, no strings, no background vocals here--not even additional percussion. Just George Benson, the most ferocious straight-ahead jazz guitarist of 1973, stretching out on an extremely solid, extended set of standards with an equally solid and creative rhythm section. From the point of view of interaction alone, this is one of the more satisfying Benson releases.

These 12 tunes clock in at an average of 10 minutes apiece, and unlike on some other Benson records, here his band gets plenty of room in which to operate. The quartet opens up as wide as possible, relying on straight-ahead sounds to accomplish the job. It's just piano, upright, drums, and Benson's own clear-cut post-Wes Montgomery tone; it's a blast to hear Benson carving his way through the changes. Even "This Masquerade," the set's one vocal cut, feels fresh--maybe because it wasn't a monster hit yet, or maybe because once Benson's laid down the vocal, the band kicks in and really takes care of business.

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