George Benson & Al Jarreau
George Benson and Al Jarreau first met in the mid-1970s at the Coconut Grove Ballroom in the landmark Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Benson recalls, "Al sang lyrics to ‘Take Five’ which I’d never heard before. I’d recorded an instrumental version of the track on my album Bad Benson, so I was really checking this cat out. His style of improvising was quite interesting.” Of Benson, Jarreau adds, "George and I share something of the same age, but George can describe things he was doing as a professional at the age of 8! He was an idol within the jazz community, one that I aspired to, but I didn’t arrive on the scene with my first record until seventeen years later in 1975. George was a hero to me.”
While both men recorded for Warner (‘70s and ‘80s) and Verve (‘90s and ‘00s), they only worked together twice after that night in LA: one impromptu sit-in before a lucky few at the Blue Note in New York, and a recording session for two songs on Jon Hendricks’ 1990 CD, Freddie Freeloader. Benson states, "In the early days, there was a bit of battling, but it was more our managers that kept us from being closer.” Jarreau adds, "This simply falls in the category of it wasn’t supposed to happen until now.”
While co-headlining a concert tour in summer of 2006 initially brought these two men together, it was thanks to a meeting of the minds between the Concord Music Group and audiophile equipment behemoth Monster Cable that finally sent George Benson and Al Jarreau into the recording studio. The result is a landmark, 13-song album called Givin’ It Up.