George Benson has not made a truly great album since Absolute Benson 19 years ago.
Just refresh your memory for a minute by listening to 'Come Back Baby' complete with a Gadd groove and great organ from Ricky Peterson on that album.
No kidding, huh? So it was magnificently encouraging to hear GB back with a new album Walking to New Orleans six years since his last album, the Nat King Cole-inspired album Inspiration, that to be frank at the time left me very cold. It still does! My working theory on Nat King Cole tribute albums, and this also applies to the blessed Gregory's more recent effort, is just play Nat King Cole's old records and don't bother about tributes. Or far better and more instructive instead go hear Freddy Cole. Freddy is at Birdland over Christmas. Bask in his sound to come anywhere close and Freddy comes closest of all even when he is not setting out to do anything of the sort.
We usually forget Benson's guitar-playing because of his incredible voice. That is as much down to a fan propensity to switch off given big stars' often frequent recourse to abject showbizzery. Check out Benson with Brother Jack McDuff back in 1963 to offset complacency given what we now think we know. A case in point of needing to woodshed all these old records to keep our listening chops up, eh.
Anyway without further very unnecessary chit-chat Benson on Walking to New Orleans joins the dots interestingly between early rock and roll and little hints of jazz and that made this release so unusual. A step in the right direction. Hopefully, Benson will put out a proper ''jazz heads'' record in the future. SG