By Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC
Guitar legend George Benson has released a new tribute to the great jazz singer and pianist Nat King Cole. The disc — Inspiration — opens with one of Cole’s signature songs, “Mona Lisa,” a track recorded by Benson in 1951, when he was eight years old. Benson had won a singing contest that year: “The reward was they want to take you to a recording studio. To a little kid, that was the biggest thing that could happen to me.”
The 13-track album showcases renditions of some of Cole’s greatest songs, including “When I fall In Love,” “Route 66,” and “Unforgettable.” The album has arrangements by Nelson Riddle and the 42-piece Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra.
The album brings together a wide range of performers, including Broadway star Idina Menzel, pop singer Judith Hill, and jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.
Listen to more music and interviews here on Jazz Beat
Here’s my 1999 profile of George Benson on VOA’s Jazz Club USA show in Arabic.