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UPBEAT BENSON

Like Nat (King) Cole, singer-guitarist George Benson is a strong jazz performer who has had remarkable success as a pop singer. Unlike Cole, Benson has never found a particularly comfortable synthesis between his strong jazz skills and his somewhat more limited vocal abilities. Much of his performance Friday at the Universal Amphitheatre was devoted to the gently rhythmic, upbeat romantic music that has dominated his recent records. Most of these songs blended into an unintended medley of laid-back, but ultimately wearying good intentions.

On the plus side, Benson’s vocal powers showed signs of improvement, with a warmer edge to his tone and a more relaxed control of the melismatic little twists and turns that he now uses to ornament virtually every phrase. He was at his best on material that had a jazz flavor or came from a rock music source.

Benson was accompanied by a crisply accurate basic 10-piece group.


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