Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Beyond The Blue Horizon


Beyond The Blue Horizon
CTI 6009

Recorded at Van Gelder Studios by Rudy Van Gelder February 1971

Side one

  1. So What?
  2. The Gentle Rain

Side Two

  1. All Clear
  2. Ode to a Kudu
  3. Somewhere In The East



This 1971 session is one of Benson’s finest. After releasing a string of well regarded soul jazz LP’s in the late 1960’s, some with big band arrangements, here he is seen in a small group setting. This is still soul jazz, but with the emphasis very much on the Jazz – of course, he was known as a decent jazz player, having collaborated with Miles Davis (on ‘Miles in the Sky’) several years before.

The opening ‘So What?’ is clearly a nod to Miles. The well-known theme of this classic tune serves as a jumping off point for some excellent playing by both Benson and Palmer. The rhythm section keeps things swinging here, managing to remain funky and support the soloists while indulging in a little experimentation of their own. ‘The Gentle Rain’ repeats the formula, to rather less effect, but side two is much more successful.

‘All Clear’ showcases Benson’s playing on both lead and rhythm beautifully, ably backed by Palmer, and Carter’s bowed bass. He really is at home either being lyrical and smooth in the theme, playing rhythm, or getting angular (see the arpeggios towards the end of the piece for a great example of this). This one track is not enough for Benson to demonstrate his full range of skills, so he continues, on ‘Ode to a Kudu’ to show his mastery of his instrument. Despite the presence of the rhythm section, it’s basically a one-man show with Benson providing his own support in an extended piece of gentle and well-considered playing. His way of playing chords here, with each note played out for all to see, is captivating here. You wish that Carter and DeJohnette would lay out (that’s how good this is) and let you enjoy some of the best guitar playing in Jazz in peace. Yet another stylistic change arrives with the closing ‘Somewhere In The East’, with it’s exotic rhythms and the eastern feel, enhanced by the use of what sounds like a pentatonic scale in the opening figure.

Read another review of this outstanding album on the BBC website. You can also check out George's official website.

At the top is the original CTI 6009 sleeve, the lower picture is a reproduction of the sleeve of the reissue (which I have).

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