In terms of the evolution of what is known as smooth jazz, there can be no more influential album than ‘Breezin’ by George Benson. This seminal collection was released in 1976 and remains a beacon both for the talent of this consummate artist and the impact it had on those who followed. ‘Breezin’ is crammed full of timeless tunes yet equally, reflects an era when artists and producers were under less pressure to conform. Consequently, although virtually unheard of today, the fact ‘Breezin’ only comprised six tracks, and that three of those tracks had running times of over seven minutes was, back then, simply a statement of quality over format. I originally purchased ‘Breezin’ on cassette tape shortly after its release but recently was fortunate enough to rediscover this superb piece of work, on CD, hidden away in the ‘used’ section of a neighbourhood record store. Needless to say the memories came flooding back.
A real personal favorite is the Bobby Womack composed title cut. Here Benson’s wonderful work on guitar is complemented to perfection by Claus Ogerman’s suave orchestral backdrop and the fact this shimmering rendition still receives frequent radio play says everything that needs to be said about what is truly a genre framing masterpiece.