Jazz Master, George Benson

If there’s one man guaranteed to get your jazz hands waving this July, it’s George Benson.

A bona fide Jazz Master (as recognised by the National Endowment Of The Arts), the 72-year-old guitarist and singer makes his first-ever appearance at the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festivalon Sunday 26 at the Festival Theatre. Nice!

One of few jazzers to crossover to the mainstream, Benson has as many Grammy awards as he has fingers, releasing over 30 albums in a career that started almost before he was out of nappies. At the age of three he was playing ukulele in a drug store, performing in illicit clubs by the age of eight, and had recorded his first single at the ripe old age of ten.

jazz_festival_logoSince then, the Pennsylvanian has gone on to establish himself as one of modern music’s most gifted guitarists, working with Stevie Wonder, producing the first jazz release to go platinum (Breezin’), and making his pop breakthrough with Give Me The Night along the way.

Now he’s ready to get his groove on in the Capital.

Noted for his smooth, fluid guitar playing, Benson’s soulful singing is just as mesmerising, having recorded classic hits such as On Broadway, This Masquerade, and Turn Your Love Around, to name but a few.

Married to Johnnie Lee since 1965 (a rarity for someone in showbiz), it’s not surprising to learn Benson describes his music as focusing more on love and romance than sexuality. This may disappoint his many female fans, but it doesn’t stop them turning up in droves at his concerts.

A Jehovah’s Witness, too, it’ll be Benson’s guitar-playing skills, however, most followers will be wanting to witness when he takes to the Nicolson Street venue’s stage.

Indeed, this is a rare opportunity to hear a master at work. Don’t believe me? Just watch.

George Benson, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Sun 26 July, 7.30pm, £47.50-£77.50, 0131-473 2000

words: Barry Gordon