Rock Around the World • October, 1476   23




To say that Gloria Gaynor was one of the founders of today’s disco revolution is an understatement. At very least this dynamic lady is fixed in the mind of anyone who has stepped into a record store, partied at their favorite disco, or turned the knob on the tiniest transistor radio. Listeners everywhere, young & old, black & white, straight & gay, have heard her clear, sharp refrains.

My memory begins to spark around New Years 1975 when disco had gained an incredible momentum and bowled over the music industry. I can still hear the likes of Van McCoy’s “The Hustle,” Herbie Mann’s “Hijack,” Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade,” The Jimmy Castor Bunch’s —E-man Boogie,” and Crystal Grass’ “Crystal World.” You may also remember a tune ( “Save Me”) by a then unknown group called Silver Convention. And foremost in my mind the release of an album, Never Can Say Goodbye.

“Never Can Say Goodbye” (many thanks to Clifton Davis) was issued as a 45 some months before the album release (as was “Honey Bee”). To hear the song any less than three or four times a night in such famous Manhattan discos as The Limelight, Lelardin and Hollywood was a disappointing surprise. Sometime later the French version started the process again. Gloria Gaynor’s debut was an instant success. D.J.s (both radio and club) sat on the edge of their turntables waiting for the L.P. promo.

That winter Never Can Say Goodbye hit the market. It was one of the first disco albums to boast an entire side of air play. From the buzzing guitar of “Honey Bee” to the ruckus party lift of “Real Good People” the album was a blockbuster, something that would impregnate the space between each ear drum with Gloria Gaynor’s name.

“Real Good People” was a song about the disco crowd, a crowd which until that time was

unique unto itself. A life style reminiscent of the twenties and thirties, get high, enjoy yourself, forget about tomorrow. Disco was being mentioned in every important periodical. People were aware of the new sound. The record companies were making a fortune.

If you remember the euphoria felt when dancing to Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” or “Never Can Say Goodbye” you probably were around for the re

surgence of those wild juices later that year when Gloria’s second album Experience came out. This album topped the first. The Gaynor sound once again got the adrenalin working

And who besides Ms Gaynor was responsible? Tom Moulton for one, the wonder boy of disco mixing. Moulton, together with the Monardo/Bongiovi/Ellis production team, molded a residence as well as a star who held up against the bombardment of disco stem-

ming from a revitalized R&B. Linda November, Arlene Martell, and Vivian Cherry (the background vocalists) proved themselves an important factor in this phenomenon. The musicians (constant on all three L.P.․) laid down a top and bottom beat (complimented by the string section) that gave the Gaynor sound its impeccable style and finesse. M.G.M. records had signed a big one.

Again side one was a play-through, blended together for a nineteen minute medley. Gloria toured with her company. She acted out the words to “Casanove Brown” while a dancer dressed up like her notorious anti-hero paraded up and down the stage. “Do It Yourself” was the choice cut. The Lewis-Hamilton oldie “How High The Moon” beautifully handled with sweet vibrant orchestration. “Tell Me How” and “Walk On By” (second only to the Warwick version) highlighted side two in typical Gaynor fashion.

Now again in 76 we are moved by the third Gaynor offering. Another milestone in Gloria’s shining career. “Let’s Make A Deal” starts off the album and as usual blends into an entire side of up-beat disco. Cole Porter’s masterpiece “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” from the 1936 film score of Born To Dance is done in a style similar to “How High The Moon,- but laden with sexy overtones and a “Honey Bee” guitar solo. “Be Mine” ends side-A, all in all an enjoyable if not to say stimulating experience.

Side two lets Ms Gaynor diversify. Her slower ballads and torch songs are pungent and well done. “Do It Right” and “Talk. Talk. Talk” close the album with Ms Gaynor’s brassy strong-woman type delivery. If you’re a Gloria Gaynor fanatic the album’s pure gold. And even if you’re not. you’ll want to pick it up. I’ve Got You, another gem in the Gloria Gaynor treasury. Just step into your local record store, reach out, she’ll be there.

—James Armstrong




Jazz is primarily an aural kind of music; its written score represents but a skeleton of what actually takes place during a performance. Each performance of the basic material is different, because the players improvise differently each time the music is played. Thus jazz is learned through oral tradition, as is folksong, and those who would learn to play jazz do so by listening to others playing jazz.

Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans

You can’t hear jazz, unless you know what you’re listening for. Jazz music moves so fast, it’s never quite the same the next time you hear it. One must keep searching and listening in order to know what jazz music is. You must learn the sound then feel the feeling of contemporary music. George Benson is a jazz musician who acquired an ear for style while listening to recordings by the late Charlie Christian. It was the sound of the guitar that captured Benson at a very early age. As a young man in Pittsburgh he set high standards for the harmonies and quality of his music. By the age of 19, George had polished his skill enough to become part of the Jack McDuff Quartet. It was McDuffs group that provided back-up for Benson’s first album, THE BOSS NEW GUITAR OF GEORGE BENSON (Prestige 7310), in 1964. During this growth period, George built his own style by imitating the technique of such contemporary guitarists as Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomory. The Montgomory model stuck to George Benson as his stint with CTI Records clearly shows. AT CTI Benson was a part of a house staff which included Ron Carter, Hank Crawford, Joe Farrell, and Eric Gale. His flexibility as an artist allowed him to plug right into the Don Sebesky arrangements found on most of his CTI recordings with the exception of BODY TALK (CTI 6033) which was arranged by Pee Wee Ellis and GOOD KING BAD (CTI 6062) arranged by Dave Matthews. It was by far his best album for the la-

bel, but along with Bobby Lyle, Fred Wesley, David Sanborn, and Ronnie Cuber, a member of Benson’s first combo, George was just another member of the band. The CTI productions became continually reminiscent of Wes and the Benson guitar seemed strung down. A new George Benson was emerging, but the atmosphere of CTI did not allow him to express the talent he had developed after many years of polishing his technique.

George Benson had learned his trade and paid his dues to the aesthetic. The time had come for him to take off and create his own style.

December 1975: The PBS Special. THE

WORLD OF JOHN HAMMOND George Benson appears as guest artist with the reconstructed Benny Goodman Sextet. The role is that of Charlie Christian. A star is reborn. Benny Goodman smiles. A star is born. The world smiles. George Benson emerges as the messenger of the jazz style. The guitar sings his song. The song is that of the spiritual. The song is a blues song. It is the song of sophisticated rhythm and blues. Jazz is the label George Benson wears. He carries his mark proudly and spreads its message through the music he plays.

The music George Benson plays is everyday music. Everybodys’ music. It is the same music that he has played for the last ten years. It is the

same music that has made him one of the top guitarists in his field. Jazz music. Fresh, new jazz music. The old standards revitalized. New music in the tradition of the old. George Benson is the messenger of jazz music.

BREEZIN’, George Benson’s latest release on the Warner Brothers label presents this artist in his own star setting after years of being a bright spot in a studded sky. These recordings allow Benson to freely express himself while limited to a disciplined musical arrangement. Produced by Tommy LiPuma and arranged by Claus Ogerman, the album flows easily with its pleasing selection of tunes. From the title cut, Ogerman strings together Benson and his group, consisting of Ronnie Foster on electric piano; Phil Upchurch on rhythm guitar; Stanley Banks. bass; Jorge Dalto. clavinet and acoustic piano: Harvey Mason on drums; and Ralph MacDonald on percussion.

The Leon Russell tune THIS MASQUERADE lets George exploit his vocal talents—Stevie Wonder style. George Benson is a star imitator. A star recreator. Perfection in a masquerade.

On SIX TO FOUR by Phil Upchurch. George brings forth the brightest sounds I have ever heard from his guitar. A rocker, the song reminds me of a quick ride down the highway. sunny day. and fun is the password. Ronnie Foster on the mini-moog displays the talent you can find on his four Blue Note albums.

If George Benson must be compared to Wes Montgomory. let the comparison be made on AFFIRMATION by Jose Feliciano. A song for a traditional jazz guitar. Is it Wes or George? Or is it Jose?

SO THIS IS LOVE really says so this is Benson. The differences in style can be made here. It is George Benson’s turn to be imitated. The leader to be followed. The precedent is set. And as if there should be a final tribut to CTI, Ronnie Foster’s LADY offers the side of Benson that made him one of the most respected artists in the recording industry today. While many jazz musicians are searching for a new means of expression through the disco medium, George Benson has been able to effectively bring his art form from the jazz/easy listening arena to that of contemporary pop and rhythm and blues, His music knows no categories. Jazz music crosses over. Jazz moves. George Benson moves. George Benson is Jazz.

—Tessil Collins-