George Benson & Al Jarreau – Givin’ It Up

Every so often I’ll get an email from On Target Media Group touting the newest project that they are running PR for. It usually has a link to some streaming files, and an offer to send a review copy if I’d like one. It is usually some sort of smooth jazz release. The first time I responded and told them that I don’t usually listen to or write about much smooth jazz, but if they had anything more adventuresome to send it my way.

I kept getting the emails, but nothing seemed more adventuresome, so I just ignored them. Then I got an email about the new CD by George Benson & Al Jarreau. I had seen some print and TV ads for it, and the concept stirred my curiousity. I had no plans to buy it, but if someone wanted to give me a copy I would certainly check it out.

cd cover

Al Jarreau was a big part of my journey into jazz as a teenager. The bass player at our school had older brothers that were into music, and much of their taste affected my early taste. This was the mid-80’s and Jarreau tunes like “Boogie Down” and “Morning” got a lot of play in my car cassette deck. They were catchy and had a groove that made my body want to move. I further explored the Jarreau catalogue and got back to the fine live album “Look to The Rainbow” which I found moving on multiple levels.

My listening moved further away from the mainstream, and Jarreau left my playlists for the most part. I was hoping this new CD would give me a great flash of mid-80’s Jarreau nostalgia, but it hasn’t really. Maybe my ears have just changed too much. Jarreau has always been slick and polished, but there was some fire up under the polish in the old days. This disc feels more calculated than passionate. The Jarreau I knew in my youth wouldn’t have done “Four” as a medium slow swing, it would have been a burner.

It really isn’t fair for me to review this disc, because I am not it’s target audience. The CD is well done. The production and musicianship are all first class. My tastes just don’t line up with the tastes of the producers of this disc. I don’t want to make it sound like the whole disc is bland muzak, it’s not. Only some of it is bland muzak. Some of it is good music.

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