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So many times in contemporary popular music - in jazz, rock, blues, folk, or beyond - the man with the guitar is the fulcrum on which all other sounds and voices hinge. He's the core, the engine, the captain who leads and inspires the rest of the team.

George Benson has been that man for nearly half a century. In a career that spans five decades, more than 30 recordings as a leader, and 10 Grammy Awards, the NEA Jazz Master has used his jazz roots as the foundation for an engaging mix of pop, R&B, and other shades that add up to a style that appeals to a broad mainstream audience. Along the way, he has also established himself as a formidable jazz singer - one whose biggest career hits have showcased his vocals as well as his guitar chops. In short, this guitar man is the complete package.

Benson's musical career began early. He was singing and playing the ukulele by age eight, and he launched his solo career with the 1964 album, The New Boss Guitar. The album caught the attention of Columbia talent scout John Hammond, who signed him to the label. Benson recorded two solo albums for Columbia before leaving in the late '60s.

After recording for several labels, Benson eventually found producer Tommy LiPuma, who helped him integrate his vocal talents into his overall repertoire. The result was Breezin', the 1976 blockbuster album that marked the beginning of a long association with Warner Brothers. In the mid-'90s, Benson followed LiPuma to the GRP label, where the two basically picked up where they'd left off at Warner Brothers. High points from the period include That's Right (1996) and Standing Together (1998).

Since the start of the millennium, Benson has shown no signs of slowing down. On Guitar Man, his third album on Concord Records, he again brings his instrumental and vocal prowess to the fore. Set for release on October 4, 2011, the disc is a 12-song collection that includes a mix of jazz and pop standards - some in a combo setting and some solo, but all of them tied together seamlessly by Benson's soulful and exploratory signature sound.

George Benson >>

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GEORGE BENSON
October 23, 2014
Showtimes @ 8pm & 10:30pm
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