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An Impressive Tribute
on 5 June 2013
As one of the finest jazz guitarists of all time, a critically acclaimed artist in the genres of soul, jazz and pop and the possessor of a soft, warm and bewitching tenor voice, George Benson is well placed to record a tribute to the art of Nat King Cole. Both Cole and Benson began their professional lives as jazz musicians until their voices became ascendant and took them into mainstream pop.
I don't think that Benson would claim to be the vocal equal of Cole but his phrasing is impeccable, his interpretations are elegant and he retains enough of the jazz influences that shaped his early career to give him that ability to swing with such sophistication on numbers such as "Straighten Up And Fly Right", "Route 66" and "Ballerina".
There are twelve Cole classics here with the big band sound of the prestigious Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra. The album begins and ends with "Mona Lisa". First by Benson (aged eight) and then a sublime reading from the adult Benson with a big band arrangement by Nelson Riddle and some sweet guitar from George. He gives us stylish interpretations of the immortal ballads "Unforgettable" (with Wynton Marsalis), "Smile", and "When I Fall In Love" with lush, jazz inflected backings that are timeless in their appeal.
This is an impressive album where voice, songs, band, arrangements and the spirit of Nat Cole combine to forge a piece of work that honours the magic, not only of Cole, but of George Benson, too.