White Rabbit is an album by George Benson. The title track is a cover of the famous Great Society/Jefferson Airplane song by Grace Slick.
The Ultimate Collection is quite different from the two-disc George Benson overviews that preceded it, including The George Benson Anthology. Like that 2000-released set, this one was also issued through Rhino, though there are only 17 tracks of overlap. The Ultimate Collection has even less in common with Legacy's The Essential George Benson (2006), which naturally favors Benson's Columbia and CTI output. The heart here is 1976-1983, an era during which Benson recorded for Warner and was regularly listed in the Top Ten of the Billboard R&B singles chart.
Recorded live at Waterfront Hall, Belfast, Ireland, in 2000, these ten tracks are pleasant re-workings of guitarist and vocalist George Benson's jazz-pop hits of the '70s. To his credit, Benson isn't just a human jukebox re-creating well-known songs and sidestepping any spontaneity that derives from a live performance. For instance, his band, which includes keyboardist Joe Sample, gets to stretch out a bit, showing off their improvisational skills on "This Masquerade," "On Broadway," and particularly on Sample's "Deeper Than You Think." Alongside his seven-member group, Benson employs the BBC Big Band and musicians from the Ulster Orchestra who provide a real lushness that enhances the music instead of utilizing the cheesy synthesizer strings that often marred some of his work in the '80s and '90s. Fans of Benson's early sessions for Columbia or A&M may not rush out to purchase this, but those who favor Breezin' will find some pleasant moments here.
U-Nam makes one goal of Weekend in L.A.: A Tribute to George Benson clear: He wants to pay honor to the guitarist who served as a major musical influence. However, because U-Nam himself is an innovator steeped in R&B and hip-hop along with jazz, he is not content to make the kind of record that Benson might have dropped in 1980. U-Nam incorporates those genres into this work in the same manner that Benson moved further along the jazz-pop road that Wes Montgomery was starting down prior to his untimely death in 1968.
George Benson is simply one of the greatest guitarists in jazz history, but he is also an amazingly versatile musician, and that frustrates to no end critics who would paint him into a narrow bop box. He can play in just about any style from swing to bop to R&B to pop with supreme taste, a beautiful rounded tone, terrific speed, a marvelous sense of logic in building solos, and, always, an unquenchable urge to swing. His inspirations may have been Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery and he can do dead-on impressions of both but his style is completely his own. Not only can he play lead brilliantly, he is also one of the best rhythm guitarists around, supportive to soloists and a dangerous swinger, particularly in a soul-jazz format.