It’s First Friday again. This time it’s November. The weather is clear and blustery; it’s cool and dry and there are leaves everywhere. Here at The Public Records, we just had to put out the last bit of jazz we had in our reserves and to ice this cake the album of the week is a CTI gem, George Benson’s White Rabbit (CTI, 1972)
In 1971 after a well received debut on CTI Records, George Benson was approached by Creed Taylor and Don Sebesky with their tried and true formula of arranging pop and rock songs into jazz versions. The two they had on their minds this time were Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit (1967) and The Mommas and The Poppa’s California Dreaming (1968) while assembling a heavy backing band consisting of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Airto Moreira, Jay Berliner, Hubert Laws, and for the first time in his career, the 17 year old Earl Klugh.
Benson had initial qualms about the project, but opted to do it anyway as he had ‘never run away from a challenge’. Even though George himself couldn’t read music, it was decided to write the rearrangement in a different modal scale to achieve a flamenco-esque opening title track since he would have little trouble finding his way. This when coupled with the use of American photographer Peter Turner’s photo of a South African Pondo tribeswoman as the cover portrait added mystique along with it’s critical and commercial successes.