George Benson – 1968 – Giblet Gravy
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Benson’s Verve debut remains one of his best guitar showcases. A tasty mix of upbeat covers of longhair hits and soul-deep, hard bop grooves. One of those rare albums that casual listeners and jazz fanatics can enjoy together.
A set that really helped him make the transition from small group soul jazz to some of his more ambitious work to come! The album’s still quite soulful and a bit funky at times – but it also features larger arrangements from the great Tom McIntosh – cast in a blend of modern rhythms, shades, and colors that really help open up Benson’s sound. The approach is similar to that McIntosh was using with Bobby Timmons and Jack McDuff at the same time – tight backings, but still with plenty of room for the lead soloist – and Benson’s got a great affinity for this sort of album. Drums by Billy Cobham, Jr. and piano by Herbie Hancock.
A1 Along Comes Mary 2:58
A2 Sunny 2:35
A3 What’s New? 5:24
A4 Giblet Gravy 4:42
A5 Walk on By 3:21
B1 Thunder Walk 4:38
B2 Sack of Woe 3:03
B3 Groovin’ 2:40
B4 Low Down and Dirty 8:28
It’s the late sixties, a young George Benson has wowed many a jazz cat with his incredible guitar playing with Jack McDuff and Miles Davis and is now looking to make a name as a solo artist.
Through the seventies and eighties he would go on to become a global soul star with the biggest selling instrumental jazz album of all time and countless grammy’s and platinum album sales behind him.
But take a look at this album cover, what a wonderful moment in time. Taken during a period when blacks were fighting for equality and music was at its most inspirational. I love album covers like this. Regardless of your taste in music the title and album cover is class.
Giblet Gravy offers up some deliciously groundbreaking music. There is a mix of contemporary pop, jazz standards, and a couple of excellent Benson-penned tunes. It is Benson’s emerging style along with the virtuosity of his back-up team which makes this album so appealing. He even makes a jejune top 40 tune like Along Comes Mary sound good!
My favorites here are his cover of Bobby Hebb’s Sunny, an excellent rendition of Walk On By that rivals Isaac Hayes’ cover, Thunder Walk, Sack of Woe, the bonus Billie’s Bounce, and all three takes of What’s New? The standout is Benson’s own Low Down and Dirty, a slow jazz number that just cooks.
If you are a fan of George Benson the jazz man as opposed to George Benson the crooner and you have yet to hear Giblet Gravy, then you are in for a treat. Buy it while you still can.
There was that absolutely beautiful and underrated time in jazz when unabashed soul/R&B elements were used without hesitation, not only for the sake of dancing, but to keep the standards tradition in jazz more than alive (and almost as a silent yet listenable rebellion against the avant-garde).
“Giblet Gravy” by George Benson is a wonderful and timeless example of the above. Equally divided between big band & small group funk with straight ahead, this album never fails to make one grin as wide as the mountains. How can one not get a kick out of tracks like “Thunder Walk” & “Low Down And Dirty” and Benson’s great unstrained takes on pop chestnuts “Walk On By“, “Along Comes Mary” and “Groovin‘”? The bonus tracks are precious: Bird’s “Billie’s Bounce” and TWO takes on “What’s New“…all good.
Then there’s Benson’s playing. Thick, warm, soulful and REAL…now lost with his last batch of anonymous releases. If you want to get a good feel for GREAT Benson (before the makeover), this is highly worth your time.