Legendary Jazz Guitarist George Benson makes his Provogue/Mascot Label Group debut with his brand new album Walking To New Orleans.
For George Benson’s latest project he revisits the roots of rock and roll through the works of pioneers of the genre Fats Domino and Chuck Berry. For Benson’s latest offering, he called in a quartet of world-class Nashville based musicians along with producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley.
Immediately from the opening notes of “Nadine (Is It You)” Benson delivers a straight shot of old school rock and roll, with honky-tonk undertones, a soulful horn infusion, and plenty of sax boogie. The big band sound adopted by George Benson and his jazz-tinged fretwork give this timeless Chuck Berry classic a new lease of life.
As the album progresses, Benson moves onto the works of Crescent City hit machine Fats Domino with a joyous interpretation of “Ain’t That A Shame” and blues standard “Rockin’ Chair”. With the Fats Domino covers in particular, there is a perfect marriage of Benson’s masterful guitar playing and pianist Kevin McKendree’s tinkling of the ivories. The pair plays off each other seamlessly and effectively throughout.
Benson puts his keys in the ignition, and fires up the engine as he ups the tempo with a foot-stomping rendition of Chuck Berry’s unmistakable classic “You Can’t Catch Me”. On the other hand, “Havana Moon” showcases a different side of Berry’s repertoire. Benson’s rendition of the song transports the listener to warmer climes, with its Latin rhythm, you can almost imagine yourself sitting on a beach on a distant shore enjoying a cool long drink.
With Fats Domino’s signature tune “I Hear You Knocking”, the soulful arrangement is perfectly suited to George Benson. Whereas some guitarists showcase their skills with blistering fretwork, with Benson his beautiful playing, wonderful tone and appreciation of space conveys emotion. Like Jazz great Miles Davis once said ‘It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play’, and that’s certainly the case in this instance.
Towards the latter stages of the record, Benson depicts two of the USA’s most prestigious music cities by way of the rousing, upbeat rock n roll of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee” and Fat’s Domino’s “Walking To New Orleans”. Unfortunately, there is no visit to “Blueberry Hill” by way of St Louis, MO on this occasion.
The album concludes with one of the stand out tracks on the record with George Benson’s take on Chuck Berry’s soulful slow blues number “How You’ve Changed”. The strings featured on this track, in particular, adds texture. And it goes without saying that McKendree’s dazzling piano work is enough to transport the listener to a smoky New York jazz club. This song has all of the qualities of a number from a vintage Hollywood movie soundtrack. Again, Benson’s guitar playing on this song is a joy to behold.
Without question, the music of Fats Domino and Chuck Berry continue to inspire and pave the way for musicians of the present day. Their influence is far-reaching and indisputable. With this release, George Benson has delivered a perfectly fitting tribute to two of the great rock and roll pioneers. Whether you are familiar with the work of either of these artists or not, Walking To New Orleans is a great starting point for the newbies, as well as an enjoyable change of pace or refresher for the rock and roll aficionados.
Walking To New Orleans by George Benson will be released via Provogue/Mascot Label Group on 26th April. George Benson will also perform at the Apollo Nights Summer Series on 18th-19th July at London’s Eventim Apollo.