Second Creed Taylor production for the CTI label for Benson, despite being a usual Taylor suspects. Among the supporting cast, we find the future Bruford-collab Berliner, the giants Carter and Hancock, the percussive Airto and Cobham and the windy Laws, Bodner, Marge and Penque, and some more.
The weird thing is that George only wrote one tune (the excellent closing El Mar), but chose to feature some 4 fairly high-profile composition to cover although very much rearranged ala Wes Montgomery manner, but slightly more 70’s fusion. Indeed, one must really listen attentively to recognize Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit. Yes, there are some Spanish influence in the instrumental rearrangements, but one can’t hear much Casady’s original descending bass riff, and of course, the absence of vocals don’t help much either. The old Summer Of 42 standard is also quite different to what you’d expect, when Benson giving it a slight Flamenco edge with his guitar in the first part, before going big-band-like. Another fairly strong piece is the excellent Little Train.
On the flipside, one can’t help but being enthralled by the happy theme of the Mamas & Papas’ superb California Dreamin’, but I doubt that you’ll recognize it quick if it is your first exposure to these Latin arrangements. Excellent stuff, though. The album ends on the sole Benson tune, the almost 11-mins El Mar, which, as its title hints, also bears a strong Spanish influence, sometimes even hinting at Rodrigo’s Aranjuez piece, the only one featuring some vocals (flamenco), even if somewhat embedded in the mix.
While WR is a outstanding full fusion album, one that’s warmly recommended to most every fusion or even non-radical straight jazz fan (especially those enjoying Montgomery’s guitar playing), it will also be the last one on the CTI label that I would entice you to investigate, because his next few ones can be a bit whishy-washy efforts, often straying shamelessly in mainstream.