George Benson: Shape of Things That Are and Were


Shape of Things That Are and Were


George Benson (guitar)


Shape of Things to Come (Verve 602517426672)

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George Benson (guitar), Marvin Stamm (brass), Ron Carter (bass), Idris Muhammad (drums),

Burt Collins (brass), Joe Shepley (brass), Marvin Stamm, Wayne Andre (brass), Alan Raph (brass), Buddy Lucas (reeds), Chares Covington (organ), Johnny Pacheco, (congas)


Arranged and conducted by Don Sebesky


Recorded: New York, September 5, 1968


Rating: 94/100 (learn more)

On this blues head by Benson from his 1968 A&M Records debut, he gives a nod to his predecessor Wes Montgomery and also breaks the mold. The recording actually took place on Montgomery’s old turf (same record label, producer, arranger, musicians)—George was offered a new recording contract in order to replace Wes just after Montgomery’s untimely death.

Benson’s playing here is the perfect example of a jazz musician who has fully realized his own voice on his instrument. His approach, rhythmic and otherwise, contains the inherent essence of a decade or more of R&B and soul music culture that he’s absorbed and adds to the jazz mix. In his block-chord soloing he freely employs one of the techniques that was integral to Wes’s style without ever sounding like a mimic. Actually, Benson takes Wes up a notch, and especially in his single-line playing establishes that this is the next level for jazz guitar. He shows off two new, jaw-dropping techniques—a risqué sweep picking and an ability to play in flurries that are removed from the strictures of the meter. What makes all this dazzle most amazing for me, though, is that it is so controlled and tempered by a spirit of extreme musicality. It never actually sounds like he’s showing off.

Reviewer: Bobby Broom

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  • 1 sparks // Jan 22, 2009 at 03:05 PM
    This is one of my favorite blues tracks of all time. George's playing just sparkles with soul. It reminds me of how technical ability should serve music and feeling. Glad to know someone else is digging it too.