JazzTimes - p.94
"'This Masquerade' is a model of pure, economical soul singing..."
Personnel: George Benson (vocals, guitar); George Benson ; Earl Klugh, Lee Ritenour (guitar); Jay Berliner (acoustic guitar); Gloria Agostini, Margaret Ross (harp); Paul Tobias , Frank Levy, Seymour Barab, Jesse Levy, Charles McCracken , Alan Shulman (cello); Phil Bodner (flute, alto flute, piccolo, clarinet, oboe, English horn, baritone horn); Hubert Laws (flute, alto flute, piccolo); George Marge (flute, alto flute, clarinet, oboe, English horn); Albert Regni, Ray Beckinstein (flute, clarinet, English horn); Larry E. Williams (flute); Romeo Penque (alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, English horn); Jane Taylor (bassoon); Ronnie Cuber (saxophone, baritone saxophone); Kim Hutchcroft (saxophone); Dexter Gordon, Frank Foster , Michael Brecker, Red Holloway (tenor saxophone); Alan Rubin, John Frosk (trumpet, flugelhorn); John Gatchell, Waymon Reed, Jerry Hey, Jon Faddis, Joe Shepley (trumpet); Brooks Tillotson, Jim Buffington (French horn); Wayne Andre (trombone, baritone horn); Dick Griffin, Garnett Brown, Gerald Chamberlain, Warren Covington (trombone); Paul Faulise (bass trombone); Jorge Dalto (piano, electric piano, Clavinet, keyboards); Kenny Barron, Cedar Walton (piano); Lonnie Liston Smith (electric piano, organ); Ronnie Foster (electric piano, keyboards, mini-Moog synthesizer); Harold Mabern (electric piano); Clarence Palmer, Butch Cornell, Dr. Lonnie Smith (organ); Jan Hammer (keyboards); Michael Boddicker (synthesizer); Richard Tee (bass synthesizer); Phil Kraus (vibraphone, percussion); Ron Carter (upright bass); Mongego Joe, Harvey Mason, Sr. , Jimmy Lovelace, Joe Dukes, John "4 Daddman" Robinson, Art Blakey, Steve Gadd , Tony Williams , Billy Kaye (drums); Richard Landrum (congas); Paulinho Da Costa, Ralph MacDonald (percussion); Diva Gray, Jim Gilstrap, Jocelyn Brown, Patti Austin, Tom Bahler (background vocals); Airto Moreira (vocals, percussion); Phil Upchurch (guitar); Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis (trumpet); Herbie Hancock (piano, electric piano); Jack McDuff (organ); Jack DeJohnette, Billy Cobham (drums).
Recording information: Burbank, CA (06/05/1963-08/11/1980); Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA (06/05/1963-08/11/1980); Carnegie Hall, New York, NY (06/05/1963-08/11/1980); CBS Recording Studios, NY (06/05/1963-08/11/1980); columbia Studios, NY (06/05/1963-08/11/1980); Hollywood, CA (06/05/1963-08/11/1980); New York, NY (06/05/1963-08/11/1980); The Front Room, Newark, NJ (06/05/1963-08/11/1980); The Roxy, Los Angeles, CA (06/05/1963-08/11/1980); Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ (06/05/1963-08/11/1980).
Photographers: Don Hunstein; Vernon Smith; Chuck Stewart.
Arrangers: Don Sebesky; Pee Wee Ellis.
The Essential George Benson covers 28 years and spans two discs, so it lives up to its claim of having the widest scope of all the Benson compilations that surfaced before it. While it's impressive that Columbia/Legacy didn't merely mine Columbia and CTI dates, and licensed material from Warner Bros. and Prestige as well (the brief Verve period is unrepresented), you could also say that the label also spread itself thin, with several crucial moments in Benson's career unable to fit. If Columbia/Legacy were honest, they'd position this as more of a sampler with a few curve balls. No matter what era you prefer, you're going to come up short, and it's not as if most people who are curious about Benson are going to be open-minded enough to appreciate both "Clockwise" and the vastly different "Give Me the Night." Some of the surprise selections, which almost outnumber the obvious ones, include an alternate take of "Ode to a Kudu," "Hip Skip" (from Tony Williams' late-'70s Joy of Flying), "Rock Candy" (from Brother Jack McDuff Live!), and "Paraphernalia" (a bizarre pick for any form of anthology, from Miles Davis' Miles in the Sky). Even casual fans won't have to think too hard about essential cuts that aren't here -- "Durham's Turn," "Nature Boy," "The World Is a Ghetto," "Love X Love," and on and on, but the majority of what's here cannot be challenged. This is a way to begin -- not wrap up -- your fascination with Benson. It is representative of the breadth of his career from 1963 through 1980, but it could have just as easily been done a dozen other ways. The sound is vibrant, and Benson's track-by-track commentary adds a nice touch. ~ Andy Kellman