Toronto Jazz Festival – George Benson

The incomparable George Benson

It was a perfect summers evening 25c with velvet soft summer air sort of “breezin” through the main stage marquee at Nathan Phillips Square. slanting sunset rays bathed the normally strident concrete arcs and walkways in a soft filtered light that blurred all the nasty seventies angles.
People were sitting around the marquee area at sun umbrella’d tables drinking wine, craft beer and half decent fast food courtesy of Mill Street Brewery. No buzzing queues, just a laid back civilized very Canadian drift into the venue. Very “cool jazz”

Introduced by Brad Barker, of Jazz FM fame, the whole shebang kicked off with a support act in the shape of Treasa Levasseur & The Daily Special
A sassy white soul singer with a huge funky Memphis sound. Nice start.

So even though I was right at the front – but side, thanks to the last-minute urge to buy a hotdog which cost me my original supposedly “saved” front of stage seat – I didn’t see as clearly as I’d have liked because one of my contact lenses broke in my eye. However whilst his features were a blur to me, I could certainly feel the charisma of the this ten time Grammy award-winning artist whose career spans over four decades. The living legend that is George Benson.
Here is another performer whose timeless songs have formed the backing track to some my most memorable years.

You gotta be kidding – whilst he didn’t look like the guy on the front of the eighties cover of the LP I had been playing all week to get me in the mood, I didn’t expect 70 years old, the spritely vibrant figure that strode onto the stage looking not a day over fifty-five (ok I wasn’t wearing lenses).
He doesn’t appear to have been afflicted with any obvious age related arthritis as he careened around the stage; his fingers still able to perform digital acrobatics on the guitar strings during his particular brand of guitar playing and scat interspersed with the evocative melodies.
The sound was amazing, his silky chocolate croiquant voice as clear as ever, I just closed my eyes and let the years roll away.

There is always a reason why these aged musicians roll out tours and it’s usually to promote a new album!!
George was here to promote his new mainly instrumental album – “Guitar Man”
I probably won’t be purchasing this as I am living in the past with this guy’s music. I just love that eighties dreamy keyboard sound dancing around his distinctive guitar playing and trademark voice/guitar dueting.

He played a lot of his old stuff including:
Love times Love
Turn your Love around
Nothing’s gonna change my love for you – cried during this one
That’s What the people say
A cracking version of Give me the night
A Michael Jackson number that he played as an instrumental thereby “George Bensonizing” it almost out of recognition (recorded for his new album)
Call me miserable but I could have done without his version of “Tequila” which irritates me at the best of times (also on the new album)
An instrumental cover of Norah Jones “Don’t know why”
An elaborate instrumental of “Sonny Boy”

He then appeared to leave the stage; his band were introduced – presumably giving George time to change and have quick gargle.
He finished up with an extended version of ” On Broadway”

Magnificent show!

A word about Jazz FM – this is a public radio station totally funded by sponsors and members of the public. It is one of the largest jazz stations in the world with full 24 hour programming; commercial free Sundays and the wonderful BBC Radio 2’s “Jamie Culham show all the way from London”
This is one of my favourite things about living in Toronto and well worth a few bucks a month to ensure it keeps going

Over and Out



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