Sunday, July 22, 2012

From My Collection: George Benson's Breezin'

By Richard K. Barry

Breezin' topped the Pop, Jazz, and R&B album charts in Billboard, and it contained two hit singles, the title track and "This Masquerade."

The album won multiple prizes at the 19th Grammy Awards in 1976, including Best Pop Instrumental Performance for George Benson and Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) for Al Schmitt. "This Masquerade" won Record of the Year for Tommy LiPuma and Benson.

It's interesting that the only vocal track on the album, "This Masquerade," made George Benson a pop superstar, though it is, according to AllMusic, the least representative track on the album. On the cut, Benson scats along with a single-string guitar solo.

As Rovi at AllMusic writes:

Most of Breezin' is a softer-focused variation of Benson's R&B/jazz-flavored CTI work, his guitar as assured and fluid as ever with Claus Ogerman providing the suave orchestral backdrops and his crack then-working band (including Ronnie Foster on keyboards and sparkplug Phil Upchurch on rhythm guitar) pumping up the funk element.

The title track, "Breezin'," has become a smooth jazz standard, which for some people is, I suppose, a bad thing. I've always liked the tune. In fact, there is a lot of music in the smooth jazz category that I like. There, I said it.

The tracks are:

"Breezin'" (Bobby Womack)
"This Masquerade" (Leon Russell)
"Six to Four" (Phil Upchurch)
"Affirmation (Jose Feliciano)
"So This is Love?" (George Benson)
"Lady" (Ronnie Foster)

I guess I should say that some people like Gabor Szabo's 1971 recording of "Breezin'" with composer Bobby Womack even more than Benson's version. I'll post both. You can judge for yourself. (And about that judging part, I'm just joking. Both versions are very nice.)

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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  • The intro to "Breezin'" became a very popular station ID for smooth jazz stations in Colorado and elsewhere for a while -- "You're listening to the smooth sounds of KZZZ... just to breeze you through your day" -- but it's still a great piece.

    Smooth jazz isn't exactly Brubeck, but then, no one else is.

    By Blogger Mustang Bobby, at 5:31 PM  

  • I take your point. I remember that Spyro Gyra served the same function for radio stations in upstate New York in the late 70s when I lived there.

    By Blogger Richard K. Barry, at 7:22 PM  

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