New George Benson on Capital Public Radio Music
By Gary G. Vercelli
In 1951 Lil’ George Benson (age 8) won a singing contest in his native Pittsburg, performing “Mona Lisa” in the tradition of Nat “King” Cole. The prize for that contest included an opportunity to record that song.
Cole has always had a strong influence on Benson and their careers have shared a similar arc. Both musicians established themselves as top-drawer improvisers (Cole on piano, Benson on guitar) before enjoying massive crossover success as vocalists.
On his new Concord CD Inspiration, Benson covers twelve of Cole’s most infectious songs. A fresh new arrangement of “Unfortgettable” features a brilliant cameo by trumpet master Wynton Marsalis. “Just One of Those Things” and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter” feature classic Nelson Riddle arrangements and the 42-piece Henry Mancini’ Institute Orchestra.
Benson has had an enduring career as a jazz and pop icon. This new chapter in his career is both a heartfelt tribute and a testament to his value for tradition.