George Benson: Affirmation
George Benson (guitar)
Breezin' (Warner Bros 75369; Rhino/WEA 76713)
Jorge Dalto (piano), Stanley Banks (bass), unknown strings.
Arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman.
Recorded: Hollywood, January 6-7-8, 1978
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
A backbeat has never disqualified melody or harmony to my ears, so when I listen to this cut I hear George Benson, jazz musician, at the height of his improvisational and creative abilities. The Breeziní album, where this tune appears, was Georgeís breakthrough, making him a major crossover artist. But what pleased me so at the time was that there were plenty of juicy and lengthy guitar solos for me to wrap my brain around. Thereís also a fairly even blend of harmonic motion and modal vamps over which the solos occur throughout the record, allowing George to express himself fully.
This tune represents classic Benson in a few different ways. During the 1970s it had become pretty much his standard practice as an improviser to deal first with moving chord progressions during his solos and then tackle modal vamps, which is the case with "Affirmation." This solo contains the usual devices in his arsenal, except the octave with additional note technique (he does use regular octaves). In place of strumming the octaves, however, he plucks them simultaneously, using his thumb and index finger to create a more stinging effect. As a matter of fact, this is another technical variation (in addition to the octave with added note) that he incorporated into his trademark style. Otherwise, the singing melodicism, cascading single notes, bluesy funk, and gritty, flurrying double-stops are all there.
I also have to note the transcendent nature of George Bensonís language as a jazz improviser, which is realized on this album and is perfectly evident on this particular piece. Rather than rely upon tried and true melodic phrases from the jazz idiom, he (in true jazz musician form) draws from these melodies with measured precision, realizing them as a portion of the total information in his melodic palette. Combining these with the melodies of the blues culture and American folk and popular cultures, Benson creates solos that represent the best in jazz in their idiomatic and rhythmic integrity, as well as their inclusive nature and expansive scope.
Reviewer: Bobby Broom