George Benson Plays and Sings (and quite well, thank you)

Still a hell of a guitar player when he plays guitar

At some point George Benson morphed from a guitarist who occasionally sang into a singer who occasionally played guitar. Benson’s Breezin’ (Warner Bros, 1976) launched his career trajectory to new heights based upon “This Masquerade,” his only vocal turn on the album.

But oh, what a vocal “This Masquerade” was. It propelled Breezin’ to Number One on the pop charts and the album won multiple Grammys, including Record of the Year, and his recording formula was set for the next 20 years. The follow-up, In Flight (Warner Bros, 1977) featured Benson’s soulful tenor vocals on four of the six tracks and, while In Flight didn’t boast a song as memorable as “This Masquerade,” his guitar was still the musical centerpiece of the music.

Jazz aficionados rightly scratched their heads as Benson dove headlong into pop music and, by the time of 1984’s 20/20 (Warner Bros, 1984), the guitar had virtually disappeared in a pea soup of limp arrangements, synthesizers and syndrums, the quintessential instrument that dates ’80s records. The nadir of Benson’s career might be Irreplaceable (GRP, 2004) which made a bid for hip-hop radio through sincere, but contrived tunes such as “Cell Phone,” where Benson tried to place a call to heaven on the title device (no joke).

As a vocalist, Benson has proven to be at his best when the material is as strong as his 63 year old voice, and Guitar Man is a splendid showcase for it. The Beatles and Benson get along very well together (reference The Other Side of Abbey Road (A&M, 1969) for further evidence), as his skilled fingers strum the six strings on a lush interpretation of “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” The mood of this recording is lights down low, slow dance and romance music. This is a record made by a grown-up for grown-ups. Benson has no need to make albums with one eye on the pop charts anymore. Recognizing his reign there is over, he can put his emphasis simply on playing and singing whatever he feels like.

Despite its title, Guitar Man doesn’t feature a lot of frenzied jamming and high-flying solos, but Benson doesn’t have to hammer with pyrotechnics. When he’s on his game, as he is whether he’s crooning Stevie Wonder‘s “My Cherie Amour” or gently coaxing the notes out of his guitar on John Coltrane‘s “Naima,” it’s a demonstration of an artist confidently allowing the music to speak for itself.

Whether he’s swinging on “Tequila,” with keyboardist Joe Sample, drummer Harvey Mason, and bassist Ben Williams, loping through “Don’t Know Why,” or straight-up crooning on “My One and Only Love,” Benson’s sense of taste, phrasing and ability to swing remain undiminished by time. Ably assisted by an accomplished assemblage of musicians, this is one of the best albums of the year. Just don’t call it a comeback. George Benson is still The Guitar Man and even when it seemed he had forgotten for awhile, he always was.

Track Listing:Tenderly; I Want To Hold Your Hand; My Cherie Amour; Naima; Tequila; Don’t Know Why; The Lady In My Life; My One and Only Love; Paper Moon; Danny Boy; Since I Fell For You; Fingerlero.

Personnel: George Benson: guitar, vocals; David Garfield: piano, keyboards, rhythm arrangement (2-8, 11, 12); Paul Jackson, Jr.: rhythm guitar (2); Ray Fuller: rhythm guitar (2); Freddie Washington: bass (2); Oscar Seaton, Jr. (2): drums; Charlie Bishart: violin, viola (2, 7); Dan Higgins: flute, alto flute, clarinet (2); Oscar Castro-Neves: orchestral arrangement (2); Ben Williams: bass (3-5, 7-9, 12); Harvey Mason: drums (3-5, 7-9, 12); Lenny Castro: percussion (3, 5, 6, 12); Joe Sample: piano (5, 8, 9, 12); Chris Walden: keyboards, string arrangement (7).

This review originally appeared in All About Jazz


The Biggest Loser

If “pride goeth before a fall” what goes after a butt-whipping?

The kind of butt-whipping Ohio voters handed Governor John Kasich and his right-wing Republican supporters when they sent Senate Bill 5, the collective bargaining eliminating, union busting bill down in flames was an epic beat down.  Dropped like they got hit by a Joe Frazier left hook, Ohio Republicans took a staggering loss going into the 2012 elections.

Unions under siege by Kasich, launched a $24 million counter-offensive to make the case the governor was waging war against working class men and women including police, firefighters and school teachers and by a margin of 61 to 39 percent they sent Kasich’s signature issue crashing and burning in a humiliating defeat.

The message for the overreaching governor was use his bully pulpit to put Ohioans back to work, not simply be a bully.

Kasich said he got the message.

“It’s clear the people have spoken,” the humiliated governor said from the Ohio Statehouse. “I heard their voices. I understand their decision. And frankly, I respect what the people have to say in an effort like this. And as a result of that, it requires me to take a deep breath and to spend some time to reflect on what happened here.”

Make no mistake about it, despite Senate Bill 5 being the brainchild of a Republican legislator, Kasich raised the monstrosity as he took the unusual step of visiting Statehouse hearings to fight for it.   This was a bill Kasich wanted passed in the worst way and it was rejected by the people of Ohio in the most forceful way.

More people voted against Kasich’s bill in 2011 than voted for Kasich in 2010.   That’s good news for President Obama who threw the support of his group, Organizing For America, behind the repeal of SB5.  The result was a good sign for the president and labor groups going into 2012, but they should only take a day or so to congratulate themselves because as the governor learned to his sorrow, political fortunes can turn on a dime.

Ohio, as it has been said to the point of nausea, is one of the most important states in every election and often serves as the leading indicator for future elections and every liberal from Maine to California is giving the state a lot of love and props for taking on Kasich, Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers, the Tea Party and the rest of the vast Right-Wing Conspiracy and shoving it where the sun don’t shine.

Speaking for all of Ohio, I would like to say, “Thanks, but hold your thanks.”

In fact, don’t thank us. We owed all y’all one after we put Bush over the top in 2004. We’re still trying to make up for that one.

This is just a good start.  Next year we can pay our debt in full if Ohio sends Obama back to Washington.

Glad to be of help.

Would You Like to Play With Herman’s Pee Wee?

"How big is my pee wee? THIS big. Why you askin'?"

This could be the last word on Herman Cain.  If the fat lady hasn’t sang yet, she’s definitely warming up.

NEW YORK (AP) — Speaking in a halting voice, a Chicago-area woman accused Republican presidential contender Herman Cain on Monday of making an unwanted sexual advance against her more than a decade ago, saying she wanted to provide “a face and a voice” to support other accusers who have so far remained anonymous.

“Come clean,” Sharon Bialek challenged Cain, demanding he confess to any inappropriate behavior with her or other women.

Cain’s campaign instantly issued a denial. “All allegations of harassment against Mr. Cain are false,” it said.

She described an evening in mid-July 1997 when she had dinner in Washington, D.C., with Cain, whom she had contacted in hopes he could help her find a job. The two were in a car for what she thought was a ride to an office building.

“Instead of going into the offices he suddenly reached over and he put his hand on my leg, under my skirt toward my genitals,” she said.

“He also pushed my head toward his crotch,” she added.

She said she told Cain to stop, adding that he did.

White conservative men (and Ann Coulter who might as well be one) have rallied around “their Black,” saying Cain is under attack by the liberal media.

That was fine when Cain was dogging out Black folks calling them “brainwashed.”  That was fine when Cain was telling anyone who isn’t rich like he is  to “blame yourself..”  It was superfine when he was saying he’d be the first Black president because nudge-nudge Barack Obama is half-White, not all-Black like him.

"Wanna come to my playhouse and see my pee wee?'

It  was all fine as long as the accusers remained anonymous.   That’s over now.  Now we have a name and a face and even more importantly, we have details. Nasty details.

Even if it was proven Cain had sexually harassed women, that still would have been okay with his White male conservative base as long as they women were not White.  Herman Cain is from the South.  That shit is not going to fly with the good ol’ boys.   They may like a lot about Cain’s croonin’ and coonin’, but they are not going to like one bit the idea of Cain putting his hand near a White woman’s holiest of holies and the suggestion he tried to force a White woman to put his mouth on his sausage and pepperoni.

Man, that’s grab a rope and find a tree time for some of these rednecks.

That’s all folks,for Herman Cain 2012.  He won’t just quit and go away but he will become a punchline first and an afterthought soon after.  White conservatives will put up with a lot, but they won’t put up with a Black conservative feeling up a White woman.   We aren’t that post-racial yet.

Cain can’t joke away the damage and he can’t refuse to answer questions in the vain hope that will stop the questions.  If he is lying about the allegations he’s going to soon find out he’s running out of fools that believe his lies.

When this all broke loose Cain’s response to a reporter who asked if he had ever sexually harassed anyone was to take a long pause and then snarled, “Have you ever sexually harassed anyone?”

“I know you are but what I am?”answers to awkward questions won’t save Cain’s sorry ass.

What happens next won’t be politics as much as it’s math.

Take one accused sexually harasser flailing for a credible explanation…


Add a blonde Republican accusing him of some filth flarn filth.


What Clint Eastwood Thinks About Gay Marriage

Mr. Eastwood strongly disagrees with your opposition to gay marriage

Clint Eastwood is an iconic actor having played Dirty Harry, Josey Wales, and The Man With No Name to name a few and has won awards and accolades as the director of Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River and Letters From Iwo Jima.

He’s also one of the coolest guys ever to walk the earth.

At 81, Eastwood is a Libertarian who is at the perfect age. The age where he doesn’t give a damn what anybody thinks as he makes crystal clear in an interview in GQ magazine.

I’ve always liked Clint the Squint.   Even when I didn’t like one of his movies or his conservative politics, I’ve always liked him.   He’s principled, direct and doesn’t talk stupid bullshit just to get a cheap headline.  Some actors who are publicity hounds would have made a big deal of it when President Reagan copped the Dirty Harry iconic line, “”Go ahead.  Make my day.””

Eastwood just shrugged it off and went about his business. Like I said: cool.

Plus, he loves jazz.  Anybody that loves jazz scores extra cool points in my book.

It’s safe to say anyone wanting to have a long and successful career in politics will have neither if they speak forthrightly and directly about what they think. Actors are freed from the burden of having to turn their words into action which means they can speak freely in a way a politician never can.

For example, ask Mr. Eastwood what he thinks about gay marriage and he has a clear and unequivocal answer.

I don’t want Clint Eastwood to run for president. We’ve tried actors in that role before and I didn’t care for the last guy who had the gig. I’ll settle for J. Edgar being a good movie.

In light of the staged farce that was Kim Kardashian’s 72 day/$14 million dollar wedding, it is safe to say the biggest threat to the sanctity of marriage isn’t two gay people who want to be one.

Those who oppose gay marriage say it’s a mockery of their concept of “one woman + one man” don’t seem to view shrewd deals that aren’t actually marriages that are staged for money and attention with the same critical eye.

Sham celebrity sex marriage is a bigger threat than same-sex marriage could ever be.

Apparently, as long as it’s two heterosexuals mocking the institution of marriage it’s okay. But two women who have been in a committed, loving and monogamous relationship for years wanting to put a ring on it is a threat to all that is holy and sacred.

Which is, as Mr. Eastwood said, “crap.”

“I was an Eisenhower Republican when I started out at 21, because he promised to get us out of the Korean War,” Eastwood says in the interview. “And over the years, I realized there was a Republican philosophy that I liked. And then they lost it. And libertarians had more of it. Because what I really believe is, let’s spend a little more time leaving everybody alone.”

Works for me.

Anne Coulter’s Negro Problem

Ann checks to see if Jimmy is packing some "dy-no-mite!"

With the lousy week he’s had, Is there really any point on beating up on Herman Cain again?  I believe I’ve made it pretty clear how much of a joke this really is.  What’s the point of criticizing Cain when any rational, thinking person can see how amateurish, unqualified and not ready for prime time this doofus is?   I’m bored with talking about the loser..

I do have something to say about the way the White Right has rallied to cover for their boy after revelations of sexual harassment charges came out against Cain.

Appearing on Hannity’s show Monday night, Coulter agreed that the Cain story is a “high-tech lynching,” adding that “it’s coming from the exact same people who used to do the lynching with ropes, now they do it with a word processor.”

She continued that liberals are “too dense” to see the “many wonderful qualities” about Herman Cain, because “all they see is a conservative black man.”

“That’s why our blacks are so much better than their blacks,” Coulter said. “To become a black Republican you don’t just roll into it. You’re not going with the flow. You have fought against probably your family members, probably your neighbors, you have thought everything out and that’s why we have very impressive blacks in our party.”

Well, that’s right nice of Miss Ann to speak so highly of a respectable colored boy like Herman. It’s downright heart-warming to hear White folks defending their “very impressive Blacks.”

In other words “their Blacks” have been indoctrinated, instructed, manipulated, cheated, confused, led astray, deceived, duped,  hoodwinked, flim-flammed, bamboozled.

You might even say Herman and other Black Republicans have been “brainwashed,”

Do they step and fetch too?

One of those “impressive Blacks,” Condoleezza Rice doesn’t much care for Cain and Coulter playing the race card.

“I don’t care much for incendiary language” Rice told CBS’ “Early Show” host Norah O’Donnell in an interview broadcast Wednesday morning. O’Donnell asked Rice to comment on the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO’s statement that he is “victim of a high-tech lynching.”

“I actually am someone who doesn’t believe in playing the race card on either side,” Rice added. “I’ve seen it played, by the way, on the other side quite a lot too. And it’s not good for the country.””I’m not much for the race card,” said Rice, a Republican and African-American who served under George W. Bush, adding that she also disagrees with using the race card to criticize President Obama.

There ain’t shit about Ann Coulter that is impressive.

Except that she’s been able for years to milk such mileage out her tired-ass “evil liberals” b.s. That, and she actually has convinced some fools who are blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other that she’s hot.

One more thing: the statute of limitations is up on the usage of the term, “hi-tech lynching.” Whenever a Black conservative gets their nuts caught in the washing machine the first thing to fly out of the pieholes of their defenders is they are on the receiving end of a “hi-tech lynching.”

I am fucking sick of these right-wing shitheads who have no sense of history and don’t have Clue One what a real lynching looks like.

It is profoundly disrespectful of all those who lost their lives to lynching in this country to casually and cavalierly misapply it to situations that aren’t remotely comparable. If liberals were to say the crappy treatment President Obama receives from dopes like Coulter was a “all new Holocaust” they would be rightly rebuked for the perverting of history.

I will gladly loan Coulter my copy of Without Sanctuary so she can educate her ignorant  bony ass (though she lacks the balls to read it).

Either that or I can use the book to beat the stupid out of her.

THIS is what a lynching looks like. Don't get it twisted.