For his first album in six years jazz guitarist, George Benson, explores rock n' roll in a tribute to Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. After tackling the smooth sounds of Nat King Cole's oeuvre in 2013's Inspiration album, Benson once again returns
to some of the music that defined America. Rather than record obscure tracks from their collective songbooks, Benson ops for the classic numbers. The hits come fast from Nadine and Ain't That a Shame to Havana Moon and I Hear You Knocking. As is always the case when recording well-known tracks the challenge is in interpretation. It's here that the album relies heavily on Kevin 'Caveman' Shirley's lush orchestrations, which focus on piano and horns, to transform the songs from low key numbers to a fully fledged big band sound. Shirley's production also adds a crisp modernity to the record that just shines from the stereo. Benson's velvety vocals make up for the lack of guitar work.
There are some enviable and effortless performances on the album, such as How You've Changed and Memphis, Tennessee. His vocal phrasing at tackling these simple R n' R melodies is obviously informed by decades of playing complex jazz music. His trademark scat singing and the gentle plucking of his Ibanez (when it happens) help add his own groove to the tracks too.
Walking to New Orleans may not break any new ground for Benson, but it takes the master of one genre to attempt to be master of another. In this respect, Benson has a bonafide old school rock n' roll hit with album 45.
Groupie rating 3/5