U-Nam & Friends – Weekend In L.A (A Tribute To George Benson) (2012)

U-Nam & Friends - Weekend In L.A (A Tribute To George Benson) (2012)
Artist: U-Nam & Friends
Album: Weekend In L.A (A Tribute To George Benson)
Genre: Smooth Jazz, Funk, Jazz Fusion
Origin: France, USA
Released: 2012
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps

Tracklist:
Weekend in L.A (feat. Andreas Oberg & Ronnie Foster) (8:16)
Give Me the Night (feat. Tim “Tio” Owens) (5:42)
Shiver (feat. Paul Jackson Jr & Tim “Tio” Owens) (6:28)
Love X Love (5:50)
Nature Boy (feat. Stokley Williams) (6:09)
This Masquerade (feat. Marcus Miller, Phil Perry, Tim “Tio” Owens, Jeff Lacey & George Duke) (11:34)
Hip Skip (5:14)
I Just Wanna Hang Around You (feat. Tim “Tio” Owens) (5:37)
Turn Your Love Around (4:34)
Before You Go / Breezin’ (feat. Patrice Rushen) (8:14)
On Broadway (feat. Tim “Tio” Owens & Jeff Lacey) (9:20)

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It is without doubt that one of the standout albums of 2012 was the hugely adventurous ‘Weekend In LA (A Tribute To George Benson)’ by the always-superb U-Nam. Now, beefed up from eleven to fifteen tracks, and including bonuses that previously were only available with the Japanese release, comes a very special deluxe edition. Read my original review of ‘Weekend In LA (A Tribute To George Benson)’ right here right now and be sure to check out the alternate version of ‘Before You Go/ Breezing’ which features a piano solo from Patrice Rushen that differs from the original.

This look back at the music of one of the true pioneers of contemporary jazz is enhanced by an outstanding of list of guest performers and is far from merely being just a compilation of covers. Indeed anyone expecting a velvety re-imagining of some of Bensons most popular songs is in for quite a surprise.

A case in point is ‘Shiver’ where ‘velvety’ is replaced by ‘edgy’ and Paul Jackson Jr. rocks it out on guitar. Another highpoint of this terrific tune are the vocals of Tim Owens that, throughout, sizzle at soul-factor ten. In all Owens features on seven of the album’s fifteen tracks and he is back for the seminal ‘Give Me The Night’ that is very much where Benson meets techno. If that sounds unlikely then just go with the flow, you wont be disappointed.

Talking of seminal, Benson hits don’t come much bigger than ‘Love X Love’ and U-Nam’s mega soulful version of this wonderful tune checks almost every box imaginable. Later, when he is joined for the title cut by Ronnie Foster on keys and fellow guitarist Andreas Oberg, what starts out as an extremely easy grooving slice of contemporary jazz quickly evolves into an eight-minute journey which includes a sequence of amazing of twists and turns. However, in terms of duration that is nothing compared to the eleven plus minutes of ‘This Masquerade’ that not only features both George Duke and Marcus Miller but also provides more cool vocals from Tim Owens. That notwithstanding perhaps Owens’ finest moment comes when he takes the lead on the sumptuously soulful ‘I Just Wanna Hang Around You’ which, in terms of personal favorites, is right up there and in the choice company of a superbly fluent rendition of ‘Turn Your Love Around’.

A clever mash up of ‘Before You Go’ and ‘Breezin’ is eight minutes of music that you may never want to end and is enhanced in no small measure by a guest performance by the magical Patrice Rushen. Elsewhere, as vocal duties pass to Mint Condition front man Stokley Williams, his fulsome tones do much to move ‘Nature Boy’ to another dimension. It’s another number that is categorized by a pulsing beat and although the jazzy ‘Hip Skip’ serves as a fine showcase for U-Nam’s intricate playing its when Owens returns on vocals for ‘On Broadway’ that the magic of Benson really comes flooding back.

There is even a fabulous bonus track in the form of the zesty ‘Never Give Up On A Good Thing’ that, with vocals from Thorsten Good, was lauded at the time as one of the best covers of the year.

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