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George Benson

George Benson is a stunning guitarist whose jazz work is too far out for pop audiences and whose pop work is often too mainstream for jazz fans. Benson was a child prodigy who hit the professional circuit at age 8 with a homemade guitar (any jazz snob who questions his future pop output didn't grow up poor) and a pure Soul voice. He consumed the different styles of Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery and Grant Green, put his own spin on them and was noted for often scatting over his guitar lines as he solos. He went on to record with Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith, Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock before hitting it big with a series of top-shelf Fusion jazz albums on CTI. His vocal on "This Masquerade" and his guitar instrumental "Breezin'" both became deserving mega-hits in the 1970s. After a period in the '80s as an R&B star, Benson moved into position as a Smooth Jazz elder statesman. It's a position he holds to this day, but Benson still displays his "pure" jazz chops in concert and increasingly on his albums.