Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Breezin' Benson closes jazz fest

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JOHN GIAVEDONI / IMMAGINE.CA
Benson delivered exquisite guitar playing and smooth singing on Sunday � exactly what the audience wanted.

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JOHN GIAVEDONI / IMMAGINE.CA Benson delivered exquisite guitar playing and smooth singing on Sunday � exactly what the audience wanted.

It was hard for the audience to know which George Benson to adore the most -- the exquisite guitarist or the so-smooth singer -- so they embraced them both, loudly and lovingly, as Winnipeg's annual jazz festival closed on a high note.

And Benson, for his part, knows how to feed that adoration: play Breezin', the title track from the 1976 album that set him on his successful smooth jazz/R&B career, early in the set.

And Breezin' helped close the 100-minute set when Benson performed This Masquerade from the album and On Broadway, two songs he says he never leaves a concert stage without playing.

In between, there were plenty of favourite hits to keep his fans happy and doing '80s dance moves in their seats.

For example, Give Me the Night from the 1980 album of the same name, had fans on their feet dancing like it was, well, 1980.

Benson's slick guitar playing and singing is the draw, of course, but his five-piece backing band makes it so much easier. To borrow a phrase, the band is as tight as a tattoo suit.

The layers of sound from keyboards, funky bass lines, scratchy rhythm guitar and powerhouse drumming gave Benson the backdrop he needed for his smooth guitar lines and smoother vocals.

Songs such as Kisses in the Moonlight, Turn Your Love Around and In Your Eyes had audience members eating from Benson's hand. He could do no wrong Sunday night with his trademark mix of guitar licks and smooth singing.

Nature Boy, the pop and jazz standard made famous by Nat (King) Cole, sounded a bit more urban in Benson's version with funky rhythm guitar and fatback bass helping tell the tale of the "strange enchanted boy."

Benson is a skilled musician and entertainer who delivers a vibrant show filled with familiar tunes; what's not to like?

chris.smith@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2013 D3

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Updated on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at 9:11 AM CDT: adds fact box

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