Music can sometimes be tied to specific events or feelings. For many of us its how we forge bonds with sounds that we loved from the past. When I was younger it seemed that there were many more events in my life that I tied music to. For instance after a long day in church, we would sometimes retire to the local Duffs smorgasbord for Sunday dinner. We did this too on Mother or Father’s Day (when my brothers and I had saved enough money to treat our parents). Almost always, there was some kind of easy listening lite jazz playing in the background. Frequently, part of that musical wallpaper included George Duke, David Sanborn and one of my favorites, George Benson.
Benson is an enormously talented jazz guitarist/singer-songwriter. For much of his career through the ’70s, he was know for the kind of jazz/funk I might have heard in that Duffs restaurant in the early ’80s. His career gained a higher profile in 1976 he ventured into adding vocals more consistently. The result became a hit song with “This Masquerade” from the Breezin’ album.
Benson would go back to instrumentals (mostly), but not before making his most successful album of all time Give Me the Night a few years later. The Quincy Jones produced recording insured high quality sound with a lush post disco sheen about it. Much of that quality came from using some of the best musicians in the industry like Herbie Hancock, Greg Philiganes and Lee Ritenour.
Benson’s voice was prominent throughout on classics like the slick R&B of the title song and the sophisti-pop of “On Broadway”. The album also featured another Qwest artist, Patti Austin on “Moody’s Mood”. Give Me the Night was part of a crop of award winning recordings on Quincy Jone’s new label Quest (a kind of Blue Note for sophisticated pop). That was exactly what Give Me the Night was. In many respect its solidified the Quiet Storm radio movement and in the process any number of its tracks became fodder for department stores and restaurant everywhere.
If also bolstered Quincy Jones already stellar career (to the point of becoming cocky) due to the long list of awards Give Me the Night won in 1981 (including a Grammy for Best Male R&B and Jazz Vocal Performance, etc.).
Give Me the Night was a beautifully produced and executed album, but I mostly love it for the pleasant memories of being in a restaurant after a long day at church. On this Mother’s Day someone somewhere is hearing adult contemporary music for the first time in some restaurant of choice. The genre seems to have collapsed in on itself as I still hear older stuff in the background in many places. Give Me the Night could still make an impression today, just as it did in my wonder years . Good music and good food, what more could you want?