George Benson | Rating: *** | Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
For any veteran artist in front of a familiar crowd, there is a fine line to be walked between comfortable and complacent, but George Benson managed to negotiate the potential pitfalls of a predictable performance on the opening night of the 30th Glasgow Jazz Festival with a mix of smooth funk hits and a certain improvisatory exploration in his jazz flourishes.
Hen party favourites In Your Eyes and Lady Love Me (One More Time) created a feelgood atmosphere, and generated plenty of love to spare for his summery guitar solos, many of which were framed by his slick band in soothing, sleepy but pleasing jams. At one point, a feast of finger-picking was accompanied by very easy listening lounge bar piano and Latino rhythms. In this company, the disco-infused jazz funk of Give Me The Night sounded positively hip.
Presumably as a treat for his Celtic fans, he picked out the tune to Danny Boy quite simply, then embellished it without compromising that lovely melody. Likewise, he transposed the vocal melody on instrumental takes on Norah Jones’s Don’t Know Why and Stevie Wonder’s Lately, embroidering the notes but never straying too far from the essence of the song.
However, he over-egged his encore with maximum scatting on cocktail party number This Masquerade and worked a distended On Broadway just a bit too hard, even to the point of cheesy noodling.