Guitar Man

[Concord Jazz]

As the title of Guitar Man makes clear, George Benson has rediscovered his axe. Benson began his career as a hotshot jazz guitarist in the ’60s—then in the mid-’70s, he discovered he could sing. Switching gears, he became a pioneer of smooth jazz and has rarely looked back since. Guitar Man offers irrefutable proof that Benson can still play, although all too often he eschews the more nuanced, exploratory playing of his youth for a more universally palatable touch. Covering tunes such as Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” and the standard “Danny Boy”—played unaccompanied here—isn’t much of a challenge for this master. Only when he takes on John Coltrane’s “Naima” does Benson demonstrate he’s still willing to break out of his comfort zone, and he seems to be enjoying himself most when he lets loose on the Champs’ 1958 bar-band staple “Tequila.” Benson Rocks—now that would be a fun album. –Jeff Tamarkin

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