George Benson: Absolutely Live! (DVD reissue)

George Benson

Eagle Eye Media, 2008

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


Just where in the hell did smooth jazz come from?

My guess is that smooth jazz is the direct result of studio players who during the 1970’s didn’t really have any sort of creative outlet when they weren’t playing on Steely Dan records.  So they’d occasionally get together, jam for hours, and then realize that while they couldn’t really write any songs, or sing or write lyrics, they could still come up with a pretty catchy melody. Give that melody to the guitar or the sax, layer it over some smooth bass lines and Rhodes keyboard…

…then BAM! Smooth jazz!

I mean, smooth jazz is really just pop, rhythm and blues without the vocal. Right? Sure it is.  A ton of those smooth jazz hits would actually make some damn fine pop songs. Actually, at some point some of those smooth jazz architects crossed over, mixing the components of smooth jazz with mainstream late ‘70s/early ‘80s adult contemporary pop (otherwise known as Yacht Rock). The best and most important of these crossover artists is George Benson. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Because of the aforementioned genre with which he is most closely associated, most people will never know that Pittsburgh’s George Benson is one of the greatest living guitar players. No joke. He’s a legend amongst people who are in-the-know and his multi-platinum 1976 album Breezin’ made Benson an international star. Beyond that, he’s able to round out his genius guitar playing by combining it with a magnificent set of vocal chords with which he used to deliver some of pop music’s most soulful hit singles (“Turn Your Love Around,” “Love X Love,” “ This Masquerade,” etc.).

Eagle Eye Media’s re-release of Benson’s 2000 Belfast concert in Northern Ireland captures the magic of George Benson perfectly. He sounds as good on this here DVD as he ever did. Offered in Dolby 5.1, Absolutely Live is a gloriously mastered snapshot of Benson’s musical versatility and consummate showmanship. The concert features updated interpretations of timeless American standards (“All Of Me,” “Beyond The Sea”), R&B classics (“I Only Have Eyes For You”), Benson’s jazz instrumentals (“Deeper Than You Think,” “Hipping The Hop,” “Breezin”), and the guitarist’s more pop oriented hits (“Love X Love,” “Turn Your Love Around,” “Give Me The Night”).

Guest appearances include the highly accomplished jazz pianist Joe Sample, the BBC Big Band, and a few musicians from the Ulster Orchestra -- all of which elevate the live application of Benson’s music to total sonic perfection. Special features include a short informative documentary called The Making Of Absolutely Live, biographies, and a photo gallery.

Absolutely Live is a must-have for Benson fanatics. For the curious, this DVD would serve as an ideal introduction to the guitarist and his music. This concert makes it impossible to reduce George Benson to a maker of mindless, foot-tapping elevator music: it solidifies and confirms his position on the list of the most important American musicians of the last three decades. 

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


When I first started listening to George Benson he was a classic jazz artist. During his "Take Five" days. It was "breezin" that moved him into the smooth jazz catagory. That album and Grover washington's "Mr. Magic" was at the begining of the smooth jazz sound. He then started singing pop songs thanks to Quiny Jones. It was all quality music, but I hope that there's some of his classic jazz songs on this dvd. Fans that only know his smooth jazz music would probably love his music that he did before he started singing. I agree that smooth jazz isn't really related to jazz. Enjoyable music, but if you want to hear real jazz get George Benson "Bad Benson" This is the album that introduced me to jazz. You'll love it.

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