97 These statements summarize the two most important aspects of Benson’s solo style. First, Benson acknowledges that a “little blues touch” is universally understood. Benson was exposed to Jack McDuff’s bluesy style early in his career and Benson was shown, first hand, the communicative aspects of the blues. Benson plainly states that the blues “works everywhere,” and is “universally understood.” The communicative aspects of blues phrases and patterns are a concept that Benson clearly understood and utilized. The blues are an integral part of much of Benson’s improvisations. The popularity of the blues also fits nicely into Benson’s attempts to connect with as many people as possible. Secondly, Benson argues that “beautiful” music is also something that people give credence to. This statement can be interpreted several different ways. First, of course, “This Masquerade” and “Affirmation” are aesthetically pleasing songs and Benson plays them very well. More precisely, though, Benson’s definition of “beautiful” could extend to his mastery of jazz vocabulary. Benson states that he combines the blues with beautiful music, which could mean that Benson is combining the popularity of the blues with the beauty of improvisational mastery. This combination is the core of Benson’s solo style. 98 Benson’s alternations of blues phrases with jazz patterns are found in both his crossover jazz and popular/R&B genres. “Body Talk,” a typical crossover tune recorded 97 Ben Sidran, Talking Jazz: An Oral History (New York, Da Capo Press, 1995), 327. 98 Charlie Parker may have shared Benson’s philosophies about beautiful music. In 1949, Parker states: “It’s just music, it’s trying to play clean and looking for the pretty notes.” See Michael Levin and John S. Wilson, “No Bop Roots in Jazz: Parker,” Down Beat, September 9, 1949, 1. 94
in 1973, is mostly a one-chord composition that provides Benson plenty of solo space. In mm. 1—5 of Example 3.10, Benson emphasizes the E blues scale, creating a 5-mm. phrase that is indebted to a blues aesthetic. Example 3.10 Excerpt from George Benson’s solo on “Body Talk” (1:40). Following these blues-derived phrases, Benson plays a virtuosic descending jazz pattern. This short example demonstrates that, even in his early recordings, Benson tended to “hide” virtuosic jazz passages among blues phrasings. Later in “Body Talk,” Benson provides a more extensive example of this kind of alternation. In Example 3.11, mm. 1—5 contain many typical blues clichés such as bent notes, glissandos, and emphasis on the flatted third scale degree. 95
Example 3.11 Excerpt from George Benson’s solo on “Body Talk” (2:56). In mm. 5—8, Benson plays a furious sixteenth-note jazz pattern; this technical pattern would be worthy of any solo of a mainstream jazz artist. It features superimpositions, alternations between triad and scalar passages, and is proof of an unquestionable mastery of mainstream jazz vocabulary. In the case of “Body Talk,”
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