Once upon a time in the kingdom of jazz, the term “legend” meant that an artist’s contribution to his chosen craft was significant enough to change the overall scope of artistic impressionism. Their bodies of work were well beyond the norm and would have a long-standing impact on how we entertained ourselves. The manner of dress, literature, visual arts and language would also be affected by the music associated with jazz. Artists such as Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Glenn Miller, John Coltrane, Tommy Dorsey, Miles Davis and a host of others have all achieved status as major influences on America’s most original art form. As the passing of these charismatic and noteworthy figures in jazz has occurred, legends have been difficult to come by; however, what we can do is apply an iconic presence to those individuals who have stood out the most. Since the 1970s, if a jazz artist has been able to maintain a high degree of longevity consistently and with a sustained presence, he or she can be anointed as an icon. As one puts pen to paper and an ear to their sound, two of music’s most prominent impressionists have made their voices heard. Consider George Benson and Al Jarreau, whoare definitely over achievers and are considered to be jazz icons. Collectively, they have recorded numerous Grammy award-winning albums and are primarily the most recognized names in the field of music. Recently they came together to record a highly anticipated CD and the most significant to date entitled ‘Givin’ It Up’ on the Concord Record Label; one that may be a musical treasure, but can also be a testament to a career that spans almost four decades of amalgamated presence in jazz, pop and contemporary R&B genres.
As one examines the careers of George Benson and Al Jarreau, what stands out the most is their collective longevity. Together they have more than 50 years of influence on jazz, pop and contemporary R&B music. Individually they have recorded and collaborated with any number of artists in a wide variety of arenas. With this being the case, the idea of two icons coming together on one recording was not only ambitious; it was a monumental feat, as well as a major milestone. Either way, ‘Givin’ It Up’ is an eclectic mix of 13 songs highlighting stellar moments of song that have left long-lasting impressions with their huge cadre of fans. In addition, the chemistry between George and Al will leave all within earshot of their CD clamoring for more. This album provides relief from the mundane and presents an aesthetic idea with amazing clarity. ‘Givin’ It Up’ not only brings two musical icons together under one umbrella, the sidemen accompanying George and Al are major influences in their own right. Some of the standout impressionists includes Ray Fuller, Rex Rideout, Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, Marion Meadows, Patrice Rushen and Marcus Miller. In hindsight, these are only a few of the names associated with this project and by no means limits the impact of their participation. In addition, there are some high profile vocalists on ‘Givin’ It Up’ as well. Listen for the talents of Jill Scott, Patti Austin and Paul McCartney who add a degree of versatility to Benson and Jarreau’s vocally acute interpretive efforts. Throughout 13 tracks of cover and original songs, there is a highly evolved sentimental and personal attachment associated with the entire CD as well as the artists who participated in making things happen.
‘Givin’ It Up’ provides a vocal history of George Benson and Al Jarreau that re-examines their most memorable classics and also allows the two to push the envelope on some cover tracks also. Songs such as Benson’s “Breezin’,” Miles Davis’ “Tutu” and Jarreau’s “Every Time You Go Away” are augmented by the solo voices of Jill Scott, Patti Austin and Paul McCartney on such songs as “All I Am,” “God Bless The Child” and “Bring It On Home To Me.” The musical landscape helping to achieve another panoramic perspective is heard at various times coming from Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller, especially on “Tutu.” In fact throughout every segment of ‘Givin’ It Up’ from beginning to end, there appears to be a strong sense of communication between the artists and listener, while also conveying varying elements of contemporary musical influences. When examining the prowess of ‘Givin’ It Up’ I find George Benson and Al Jarreau’s collaboration to be a very unique and special CD, one that applies a broad based perspective on two amazingly significant icons. Since the advent of the smooth jazz radio format, George Benson and Al Jarreau have managed to maintain their presence as major contributors, which in itself is a testament to their amazing talent. This latest CD coming from this dynamic duo reveals why they are two of music’s most significant influences, having achieved iconic status in spite of the irregularities often noted in today’s world of the here and now, but maybe not tomorrow.
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