Several weeks ago while perusing Amazon's "Upcoming CD Releases" I learned of an exciting new album from the ten-time Grammy Award-winning artist George Benson. Although I am not much of a jazz buff I have always enjoyed Benson's work. It seems that George has spent the last four years painstakingly developing a tribute to the legendary Nat King Cole. I have just sampled this disc a couple of times and I must tell you that the results were well worth the wait. "Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole" can best be described as 47 minutes of recorded bliss. The old master is clearly on top of his game as he belts out a dozen of the most memorable tunes from the Nat King Cole catalog. If you are anything like me you will come away clamoring for more.
The disc opens with a cute 0:57 snippet of 8 year old Lil' Georgie Benson performing "Mona Lisa". I am sure that Ol' George would be the first to admit that there was no indication here that he would go on to become such an accomplished vocalist! Track 2 gets down to business and finds Benson offering up a swinging rendition of "Just One of Those Things" which includes a bit of scat singing. Fantastic stuff! Now if you love the music of Nat King Cole as much as I do then you will be happy to learn that some of his all-time biggest hits are included on "Inspiration". You are sure to enjoy George's remarkable renditions of such favorites as "Walking My Baby Back Home", "Route 66" and "Ballerina". There are also a number of interesting duets featuring Judith Hill ("Too Young"), Wynton Marselis ("Unforgettable") and the German trumpet sensation Till Bronner ("Smile"). Meanwhile, George pays homage to the King Cole Trio with a swingin' rendition of "Straighten Up and Fly Right" that sounds every bit as good as the original! The disc closes with George's grown-up version of "Mona Lisa". He has never sounded better!
Since Nat King Cole made so much fabulous music "Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole" is bound to leave you feeling shortchanged and longing for more. Forty seven minutes is just not enough. I purchased my copy of "Inspiration" at a leading big box retailer that included a couple of superb "bonus tracks" exclusive to that store. You might want to check it out. Now given the superb quality of this recording I am quite confident that "Inspiration" will be a rousing success and that a second volume will ultimately be issued. Meanwhile, I would like to commend all of the talented young musicians from the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra who accompanied George Benson on this album. Great work! It is quite apparent to me that this was a labor of love for everyone involved. A well-conceived project beautifully executed! Very highly recommended!
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