The Smooth Sounds of Be The Boy?

This week jazz guitarist George Benson came up in a discussion my wife and I were having. We don’t normally discuss jazz or music in general because I’m prone to going off on tangents about things like why “Raw Power” shouldn’t be considered a Stooges record or why “Here Come The Warm Jets” was the only great record released the year I was born and once I get started it’s hard to bring me back so we stick to discussing robots and which bloggers we think we could beat up if we fought them.

But George Benson came up this week because someone asked us if we’d like to go see him, free for nothing, later this month. Since we already had plans for that night I should have just said “Thanks but we can’t do it” but I didn’t, in an email to my wife I said:

“George Benson is a huge talent and I have a lot of respect for him because his guitar work on some of Jack McDuff”s best works. I’ve attached two and a half minutes of Benson, McDuff and Joe Dukes wailing away in some NJ nightclub in the early 60’s. It’s been said (by me) that no one played the organ like Jack McDuff before he came along but everyone played like him afterwards. He’s a sadly neglected artist and since he passed away a few years ago that is unlikely to change. It’s always struck me as hard to believe though that the guy playing the incendiary licks on Grease Monkey and Rock Candy later became better known for formulaic smooth jazz.”

I’ve thought about that email since I sent it. You see, about a decade after the song I sent to Nina was recorded George Benson was a very successful musician not only as a guitar player but as a singer as well, scoring a few major hits. Unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned, he didn’t reach the charts playing the driving hard bop style of the early sixties; instead he had his greatest success in the then developing genre of smooth jazz where he’s pretty much remained since. Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is bad because I’ve never had to pay George Benson’s bills. If smooth jazz put food on the table and George was satisfied with his work I have no right to say if it’s right or wrong, I just know what I respond to and it’s the earlier stuff. It has been said that Benson’s smooth hits caused him to fall into a rut of producing formulaic recordings, essentially trying to repeat the success of previous songs by giving the people more of the same. This brings me to the reason I’ve been thinking of this; over the weekend I was reading Hey Joe’s blog he talked about why he blogs and wondered aloud if having a regular readership compromised a bloggers writing. This is a question I’ve asked myself many times; in the years I’ve written this blog it has gone from having a readership of one person (me) to having a larger audience (you). As time has gone on readership has grown and over that time I’ve tried very hard to keep writing the same way I did when no one was looking (but maybe a little better) essentially not purposely catering to an audience while hoping that one would show up anyway. Basically trying hard to not become caught in a George Benson/smooth jazz like blog rut. Have I been successful? I can’t say, but time will tell. I hope that the day doesn’t come when another blogger writes “I liked his early stuff better, like when he put his wenis in the paper cup” but it probably will.

Until that day comes here is some related viewing:

Jack McDuff – Rock Candy

George Benson – Breezin’


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