Tuesday, October 11, 2011

George Benson's Spanish Flavored White Rabbit

George Benson was already an established guitarist when he signed with Creed Taylor and CTI Records. As part of the 40th Anniversary of CTI Records, Sony has issued on CTI Masterworks White Rabbit, an album that situated the guitar in the flamenco-tinged arrangements of Don Sebesky. The musicians on this session included Herbie Hancock on electric piano, Ron Carter on bass, Billy Cobham on drums, and Airto on percussion. Hubert Laws was part of the larger band and added a solo to the title track.

The title track was a remarkable adaptation of the Jefferson Airplane song and sets the tone to the album. The underlying groove of Grace Slick’s original lends itself to the flamenco inspired setting as the trumpet conjures the bullring, and Benson’s guitar initial evokes the flamenco masters before he takes his solo. It is followed by Herbie Hancock who rips off a startling solo punctuated by the horns which is then followed by Laws' solo. The rendition provides an energetic start to this recording.

Of course White Rabbit is not the only pleasure to be heard here. Theme From 'Summer of 42' provides a quieter mood as Benson states the theme with Jay Berliner's acoustic guitar helping set the mood while Hancock's electric piano establishes a foundation for Benson's solo. Little Train (from Bachianas Brasileiras #2) has a lively Brazilian feel with Airto adding a wordless vocal in addition to percussion. California Dreamin' opens with a Flamenco flavor and a lush Sebesky arrangement that mixes in Harp with the woodwinds and brass over which Benson's agile, fleet solo rides as Berliner chording behind him.

This disc concludes with Benson's El Mar, which also has a similar Spanish (or perhaps Moorish) flavor. It is built upon a slightly dramatic motif and apparently was Earl Klugh's debut recording. Klugh plays acoustic guitar here. Like the rest of the album, this is wonderfully recorded and remastered so for example one can hear the sizzle and crackle from the drums and Airto's percussion as well as very clearly and distinctly. This was recorded by Rudy Van Gelder and while Van Gelder was apparently not involved with remastering these reissues, the clarity of the sound does justice to the wonderful music heard here.

My review copy was provided by a publicist.

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