George Benson already was one of the best guitar players in the history of jazz before he finally achieved his 1976 breakthrough with "Breezin'."
Currently he's on tour with his latest album, the Grammy-winning "Givin' It Up," a collaboration with legendary vocalist Al Jarreau which includes covers of some jazz classics. By stocking up with the standards, Benson hopes to draw in new listeners to jazz.
"We don't have the advantage of the earlier artists at the turn of the 20th century," he said. "Jazz was being paid attention to, there was lots of notoriety, lots of radio play. People don't have a feel for it now like they did years ago. Jazz was danceable back then and that was a big thing. If you have music that you can't dance to, you have a problem."
CARRYING THE TORCH
Benson has done his part to inject new life into the century-old music form, and he's seen others come after him to help carry the torch.
"It only takes one guy, one musician to change the planet," he said. "Wynton Marsalis did that. He made it popular again, kept it alive because they like him and he's done it to perfection. He can dissect the music verbally, explain it. Now we need someone to do that to the ear " someone who has that explosive element that builds it into a movement. That'll turn people on." "Charles Martin