George Benson, the 10-time Grammy-winning guitarist and vocalist who kicked off the first Indy Jazz Fest in 1999, returns to town this year as a headlining act. NUVO caught up with Benson via phone ahead of the show.
NUVO: Are you focusing on reaching a new and younger audience these days?
Benson: It's something you constantly have to pay attention to. I find we have had a lot of success over the last few years. An example is when Breezing came out. I don't care what the concept is, I try to bring music to all of the variety of people. Although it may lean in one direction, there is still a variety in that audience. Jazz is still a big part of it.
It taught me how to improvise. I think that is the greatest asset I have both vocally and as a guitarist. I've got that in my selection of given songs for any audience.
NUVO: In 1999 you purchased one of Wes Montgomery's three guitars.
Benson: That's true; [Indianapolis is] the hometown of some of the most fabulous musicians of our time. Wes was very special to me as was Freddie Hubbard. Wes Montgomery was my friend. [He] inspired the world and is still one of the favorites around the globe as I visit the different countries.
NUVO: How would you define yourself today as a musician?
Benson: I'm a little more mature harmonically. I like to harmonize songs with techniques such as John Coltrane used in stacking chords.
NUVO: In your opinion, how has jazz evolved?
Benson: Jazz is still an incredible inspiration for young musicians all over the world...It's still a classic music of our time. It will continue to inspire people for a long time.