The jazzman cometh to China - again

Updated: 2013-09-01 08:13

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai(China Daily)

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The jazzman cometh to China - again

Legendary "guitar man" George Benson will present updated renditions of his repertoire and new songs in Shanghai. Provided to China Daily

Ten-time Grammy award winner and legendary "guitar man" George Benson will give a concert in Shanghai.

This will be the second time the 70-year-old American guitarist, and pop, jazz and R&B singer, will perform in China.

"My first performance in China took place right after the Olympic Games in Beijing," Benson tells China Daily in a telephone interview.

Benson and veteran jazz singer Al Jarreau gave two concerts promoting their 2006 hit album Givin' It Up in Beijing and Shanghai in 2008. Chinese jazz musician Liu Yuan says Benson had "infinite talents", and "although jazz has small groups of fans in China, fine music can always find supporters".

Benson was impressed with the grandeur of big arenas built for the Beijing Olympics and saw the country as he "never could have imagined China".

He was glad to find he had fans in China, who "knew so much about me and my music", and he also learned some Chinese words. Supposedly, this time when he communicates with audiences in simple Chinese, he will know the exact meaning of the words.

His latest impression about China's music is from the martial arts movie The Grandmaster. He said the music was fantastic and beautifully done, and was particularly impressed with the playing of erhu, the Chinese string instrument he calls "a different version of the violin".

The jazzman cometh to China - again

He was amazed at the depth of the artistry, and says he would love to take a vacation and stay for a few weeks to learn more about the country.

Benson was bemused when he was told that he was called a living fossil by a Chinese newspaper. "I take music very seriously. It's important to give music all it deserves," he says.

A virtuoso guitarist, Benson started his music career as a child prodigy, playing guitar in a nightclub on weekends when he was only 8. He recorded his first single, She Makes Me Mad, at the age of 10, under the name Little Georgie.

Benson worked with different musicians and bands in his early 20s, winning the recognition of such maestros as Miles Davis.

By the 1970s, Benson was a successful jazz guitarist. His album Bad Benson in 1974 topped the Billboard jazz chart, and the follow-ups Good King Bad and Benson and Farrell both became best-sellers of the jazz category.

In his 1976 release Breezin', Benson sang lead vocals in This Masquerade. The song became a pop hit and won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. It made pop music history as the first jazz release to go platinum - selling 3 million copies.

In recent years, Benson has focused on 1960-'70s guitar-playing and released two cover albums - Guitar Man, comprising jazz and pop standards, and Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole, released in June this year.

"Nat Cole came from a very different time," Benson says. "There was lots of prejudice against African-Americans, and Nat Cole overcame all of it. He was eloquent, well-educated, never belligerent and always loving people. To many people, the history is over, but I benefited from his story and it's my way of payback."

Benson promised to bring first-class musicians with him to Shanghai and present both the repertoire and new songs.

"A lot of what they already know," but he will perform updated renditions.

Benson has been designing guitars for Ibanez since 1977. His was the first original guitar design by a musician.

(China Daily 09/01/2013 page15)