In a career that spans five decades, more than 30 recordings as a leader and 10 Grammy Awards, NEA Jazz Master George Benson has used his jazz roots as the foundation for an engaging mix of pop, R&B and other shades that add up to a style that appeals to a broad mainstream audience. Along the way, he has also established himself as a formidable jazz singer. But his new CD -- "Guitar Man" -- highlights Benson's unparalleled guitar playing, perhaps more than any other disc he's released in decades. The 12-song collection includes a mix of jazz and pop standards-some in a combo setting and some solo-and features veteran players Joe Sample on keyboards and Harvey Mason on drums.
Keyboardist Mike LeDonne has held court at the historic Smoke Jazz Club in New York City for probably more years than he cares to admit. But his new CD -- "Keep the Faith" -- finds him and his Hammond B-3 in the controlled atmosphere of the recording studio with his regular band mates Peter Bernstein on guitar and Joe Farnsworth on drums featuring Eric Alexander on tenor sax. LeDonne and company romp, stomp and burn through an imaginative set of pieces by Charles Earland, Michael Jackson and Horace Silver, along with a handful of originals which display LeDonne's considerable skills as a composer.