Category Archives: CD-Reviews

Review a CD / album

George Benson: Inspiration

Inspiration_ A Tribute To Nat King Cole

Another album from the Concord Records from 2013 is George Benson’s tribute to Nat King Cole: Inspiration.

I might have explained before that I also think that the music of Nat King Cole is something I’m also enjoying to listen, but with that CD George Benson makes it clear that he was and still is one of the greatest admirers of Nat King Cole and his muisc.

The album starts with a recording from 1951 with Little George Benson singing and playing the Ukulele to “Mona Lisa”, his personal choice at that time and still today, also closing the record with the original arrangement from Nelson Riddle.

In between we hear many of those great songs Nat King Cole became famous also in it’s original arrangements and George Benson as the really inspired vocalist. Benson’s voice is very similar to Nat King Cole’s way of singing, especially on “Walking My Baby Back Home”.

“Just One Of Those Things” featuring Benson also on the guitar with a classic-Benson solo singing the guitar solo line.

“Unforgettable” with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet and Benson on guitar playing this song groovy and relaxed with no extra pathos.

“Route 66″ shows again the excellently swinging Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, under the direction of arranger Randy Waldman.

My personal highlight on this CD is “Nature Boy”. The arrangement is again from Nelson Riddle and Benson plays the solo part on guitar. This song has not covered any dust in all those years since it was released by Nat King Cole in 1948, just amazing. And I think this is also Benson’s message with this album: Here is some music I grew up with and the music from my youth has inspired me my whole life and now I allow myself to play and sing these original arrangements and hopefully inspire another generation of musicians.

“Smile” features Till Brönner on trumpet, “Too Young” features Judith Hill (you can hear here tonight at the Oscars) on vocals in a nice vocal duet and “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” is again a swinging big band arrangement giving Benson again the opportunity to play an excellent guitar solo.

So this tribute to Nat King Cole shows this music in it’s original form perfectly played by today’s masters. Benson himself is very proud of this album because it presents one the greatest guitar players of our time as what he always wanted to be: a great singer.

 

Mad Romance: Aim High

Mad Romance

If you like vocal groups like Manhattan Transfer or New York Voices I have another classic vocal quartet from Miami for you: Mad Romance. The group released in 2011 a very nice album called “Aim High”. The CD presents songs from the Great American Songbook, with some beautiful and refreshing arrangements done by leader Rick Harris who is also a professional trumpet player. Harris has re-formed this group with some big names from the Miami Jazz scene: Lisanne Lyons (voc), Wendy Pedersen (voc) and Greg Diaz (voc, sax).
The CD starts with a very funny version of “Pick Yourself Up” which features Rick Harris followed by “You Don’t Know What Love Is” which I introduced to you some weeks ago. This song is a classic vocal quartet arrangement with a nice call-and-response solo by trumpet and saxophone.
The next song on the CD is a Salsa-inspired version of “How Long Has This Been Going On” featuring Wendy Pederson on vocals supported again by trumpet and saxophone.

The promise the band makes with these first three titles is kept throughout the CD. Every song is perfectly arranged and shows a different side of the technical and musical capabilities of the group.

“From This Moment On” is a swinging up-time Jazz standard, “Time of the Season” is a cover version of the Zombies’ hit from the late sixties and “Yesterdays” a typical Jazz standard ballad.

“Aim Low” is a composition by Rick Harris and is somehow the title song of this album. The lyrics are very sarcastic, like “You wanna work, so aim low” and shows the arrogance and ignorance in the music business. The CD ends with “The Thrill Is Gone” which is again arranged as a Salsa.

I think the whole CD is brilliant and the voices fit excellently together. The variety of the arrangements is outstanding and the musical and instrumental skills of Rick Harris and Greg Diaz make this album a great experience. The best part for me are the Salsa arrangements, a Miami based vocal group should know how to do that. I hope I will have the chance to see this quartet once.

I created again a playlist for you, so you are able to listen to the songs:

The group has a website where you can download the song “Aim Low” and where you can find some more information about the band. Please look at www.madromance.com. Unfortunately I do not see any updated concert information.

The following video is also found on the website but since I think it’s very entertaining I added it right here for you: