Well, no wonder! That was my reaction when I opened this month’s CD review package to find out why the package was so much heavier this time around. Well, lo and behold, it was the weight of the project by two of the most prolific and musically powerful jazz artists in this universe: George Benson and Al Jarreau, recording together for the very first time, despite having been label mates and great pals for over 30 years!
You’ve either seen or heard of the movie "Duel of the Titans," I’m sure. Well, here we have the "Joining of the Titans." Did I know what to expect? Well, how could I honestly NOT know? How can you possibly take two artists with such monumental individual careers, combine them, and expect to stay in the room without witnessing a creation that defies definition? This is all anyone who’s ever heard of these heavyweights (and who hasn’t?) could conceivably expect and a mountain more.
Let’s start with the innovative way in which they handle Benson’s "Breezin’." That’s followed by Benson’s expert handling of Jarreau’s classic "Mornin’." Both are just stellar interpretations. Jarreau’s uniquely attractive vocal stylings and Benson’s kingly guitar offerings (as well as his own silky vocals) are the things that make up sheer listening ecstasy.
You know, the more you hear either of these guys individually (not to mention together), the more you come to clearly understand without question why their staying power is the stuff of which many an entertainer’s dream is made. Couple all this with the powerhouse luminaries who accompany this duo (Jill Scott, Patti Austin, Marcus Miller, Marion Meadows, Rex Rideout, Stanley Clarke, Freddie Ravel, Freddie Fox, Patrice Rushen, Paulinho Da Costa, and former Beatle Paul McCartney, just to name a few), and--careful!--you just could have the makings of one seriously spontaneous combustion.
The selections are all extraordinarily tasteful, and I refuse to select any favorites. Well, o.k., so "Breezin’," "Mornin’," "Summer Breeze," "God Bless the Child," "Let It Rain," and the snappy "Givin' It Up For Love" come to mind. Of course, there’s also.... oh, never mind. You’ll see what I mean if you happen to give this masterpiece a listen. Thanks for this major contribution, guys. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing smooth jazz at its finest!