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George Benson - No The Other One You Probably Don't Know

Dan Gould

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Stumbled across a Parkwood label LP by saxophonist George Benson, George Benson Swings & Swings & Swings. Nice stuff, Like Stitt he played tenor and alto and I hear Stitt and Hodges as probably his biggest influences.  This fabulous performance is from a year ago when he was 87! More vids on youtube from the same gig, and there are some other LPs on Parkwood and a full album of duets with the much younger pianist, Glenn Tucker, available at CDBaby:


I am having trouble copying and pasting but I am sure Mark Stryker can append his newspaper piece about Benson that he shared with me.

Anyone know this guy? If you see the Parkwood releases, pounce! 



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Here's a 2009 piece I wrote about George for the Detroit Free Press. Unfortunately, he suffered a stroke recently and his health isn't good at the moment. But he is still with us. Nice man too.




LENGTH: 641 words

THE LOWDOWN: One of the great unsung heroes of Detroit jazz, saxophonist George Benson, 80, is being honored Saturday by the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association with its Ron Brooks Award for his contributions to jazz in Detroit.
THE SOUND: Classic bebop. Benson is a traditionalist who swings joyously through standards, croons ballads with breathy passion and digs deeply into the blues with a soulful wail. On both tenor and alto, he plays with a tone as thick and juicy as 2-inch sirloin, and his improvisations arrive in clearly enunciated phrases that reflect his high-level craftsmanship.
"I've never believed in glossing over things and not trying to do everything correctly," says Benson. "Playing the correct chord changes, playing the melody the right way."
Benson's early influences included alto saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Benny Carter and tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. Benson later plugged into bebop, the emerging modern style spearheaded by alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. He developed a particular fondness for Sonny Stitt, who like Benson played both alto and tenor and channeled Parker's ideas into a chin-first strut and lickety-split attack.
"Sonny and I had a battle at the Blue Bird one time," says Benson. "He won, but I loved him. He was such an articulate player."
THE BEGINNINGS: Born in Detroit, Benson was 11 when he discovered his late uncle's C-melody saxophone in the attic. He started studying at school and soon acquired his own alto. He began playing in a school dance band in seventh grade and was working around town while in high school.
THE GIG: Unlike so many of his peers, Benson remained anchored in Detroit rather than move to New York. With a wife and children to support, he felt Detroit was his best option. He always worked a day gig - a decade on an assembly line with Massey Ferguson building tractors, before working as a mail carrier from 1967-1993.
At the same time, he was working clubs five or six nights a week. "It was hard," he says. "My wife had to wake me up and tell me which job I had to get dressed for because I didn't get much sleep."
THE BREAKS: In Detroit, Benson made a record of "The Nearness of You" and "Begin the Beguine" that was released in 1951 on Regent, which was owned by Herman Lubinsky, who also owned the more famous Savoy label. The record sold well enough that Lubinsky asked Benson to come to New York for a follow-up, but by then Benson was in the Army and opportunity slipped away.
THE PROFESSIONAL: Benson developed a reputation as one of the most reliable musicians on the Detroit scene. He shows up on time and takes care of business on and off the bandstand.
"I've always been one to play what the people wanted to hear," he says. "That's why I worked all the time. People come out to hear you play and pay their hard-earned money, and you should give them what they want."
THE DOPPELGANGER: The saxophonist Benson is forever being mistaken for the other George Benson, the famous jazz guitarist. They usually say, "I've got all your records." The funniest incident, however, came when the city of Detroit once sent the deed to Benson's home to the guitarist in New York.
THE TRUTH: "I felt proud of the guys that went to New York and did well and knowing that I had played with them here. I was proud of them, but I thought that if I had gone to New York I would have made it too."


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