George Benson: Plum
George Benson (guitar)
Body Talk (CTI/Epic/Legacy 86147)
John Gatchell (trumpet), Waymon Reed (trumpet). Gerald Chamberlain (trombone), Dick Griffin (trombone), Gary King (electric bass), Mobutu (percussion).
Arranged and conducted by Pee Wee Ellis. Composed by George Benson.
Recorded: New York, July 17-18, 1973
Rating: 100/100 (learn more)
This track contains some of the most exciting and articulate jazz guitar phrasing I’ve ever heard. On his original composition, chockfull of moving chords, George shows us his artistic nature by taking liberties with how he chooses to build the track to create a total performance and presentation.
He uses the intro—an easy, loping, 2-chord vamp—as a precursor, soloing sparsely as a suggestion of where he’ll be heading later on. In this AABA tune he states the A section melody only once and then proceeds to improvise through the entire remainder of the form, repeating an additional A section melody again as a kind of recap. I’m fortunate to know the actual melody of the complete tune from having worked with Stanley Turrentine (George’s label-mate on CTI) who, many years later, had this tune in his repertoire. However, prior to that experience I had no clue that there was a B section melody! Regardless, this track proceeds from one event to another so seamlessly and is so perfectly spellbinding that I never questioned it. And actually, the A section melody is a complete musical statement unto itself.
Benson is now at the top of his game as a guitarist and jazz musician and can seemingly do whatever he pleases. He’s making all the right moves here. His solo over the second A, B, and final A sections of the melody form transcends the guitar and is in the realm of the highest level in jazz. The rhythmic, melodic and harmonic freedom and command with which he navigates these progressions, coupled with his technical mastery of his instrument, should place him among the pantheon of the greatest jazz musicians of all time—the same group of musicians that I use as a reference point to make this statement (which may seem bold to some). After he devours the chord changes on the form, he breaks to restate the A melody again (a palate cleanser), before indulging in the 2-chord vamp like a vacationer at a cruise ship dessert bar. The funk, blues and jazz smorgasbord of ideas and technique seems never-ending as the track fades.
Reviewer: Bobby Broom