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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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A Tribute to Nat King Cole

Concord 0888072342682



1. Mona Lisa

2. Just One of Those Things

3. Unforgettable

4. Walkin' My Baby Back Home

5. When I Fall in Love

6. Route 66

7. Nature Boy

8. Ballerina

9. Smile

10. Straighten Up and Fly Right

11. Too Young

12. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter

13. Mona Lisa

George Benson - Vocals, guitar

Li'l Georgie Benson - Vocals, ukulele (track 1)

Randy Waldman - Piano

Tim May - Guitar

Chuck Bcrghofcr - Bass

Gregg Field - Drums

Michael Fisher - Percussion

Sheila E. - Percussion (track 3)

Janey Clewer, Alvin Chea, Don Chelton - Background vocals (tracks 9, 10)

Chris Papastephanou, Randy Waldman - Background vocals (track 10)

Till Brönner - Trumpet (track 9)

Judith Hill - Vocals (track 11)

Idina Mcnzel - Vocals (track 5)

Wynton Marsalis - Trumpet (track 3)

Henry Mancini lnstitute Orchestra:

Ryan Chapman, Chris Burbank, Gilbert Paz, Jared Hall - Trumpets

Chris Gagne, Kendall Moore, Stephen Szabadi, Major Bailey - Trombones

Neil Carson, Kevin McKeown - Alto saxes

Mark Small, Alex Weitz - Tenor saxes

Derek Smith - Baritone sax

Cassandra Eisenreich - Flute

Jon Anderson - French horn

Steffen Zeichner - Violin (Concertmaster, soloist)

Abby Young, Adam Diderrich, Karin O'Keefe, Zack Piper, Michelle Godbee, Patricia Jancova, Tomas Cotik, Victor Colmenares, James Reynolds, Jonah Osawa, Rob Patrignani, Arianne Urban, Michelle Mlacker, Katrina Schaeffer - Violins

Robyn Savitzky, Kathryn Severing, Marcela Fernandez, Lauren Miller - Violas

Joy Adams, Cecilia Huerta, Andrew Kromholz, ChiaˇLi Yu, Sarah Gongaware - Cellos

Rachcl Hershey, Jeff Kipperman, Yen-ling Lin - Basses


The first track on George Benson's new CD gives an idea of the album's aim. It captures George at the age of eight singing Mona Lisa on a record he was able to make as the winner of a singing contest in his home town of Pittsburgh. The young Benson chose the song as it had been a hit for Nat "King" Cole - and this whole album is a tribute to Cole, who was a continuing influence on Benson.

In fact both men had similar careers - starting off primarily as jazz instrumentalists (George on guitar, Nat on piano) before becoming most famous as vocalists. This displeased some jazz fans, as they heard less of each man's distinctive talents on their instruments, but such is the way of the music world.

When paying tribute to an artist or a group, there are generally two possible lines one can follow. You can either try to imitate the original or put your own stamp on their work. George Benson seems to have choosen the first method, as he often sounds very like Nat "King" Cole. Indeed, in Ballerina he sounds more like Cole than Cole did! In other tracks, such as Just One of Those Things and Walkin' My Baby Back Home, he certainly veers more towards the Cole style than his own.

In a way this is a pity, as the listener may feel he might as well buy an album of Nat Cole's Greatest Hits. Fortunately there are enough Bensonian touches to remind us of George's individuality - for example, his habit of scatting in tune with a guitar solo. And there are a few short guitar solos, although I could have done with more. The other extra quality which this album supplies is the presence of several guest artists - notably two trumpeters: Wynton Marsalis in Unforgettable and Till Brönner in Smile. The duets with lady singers on When I Fall in Love and Too Young are remarkably successful. Arranger Randy Waldman contributes several excellent piano solos.

The album only lasts for a bare 41 minutes, which is a shame, but there is no doubting the sincerity of George Benson's appreciation for Nat Cole.

Tony Augarde


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