June 05, 2013 — Coral Gables — Over 40 musicians from the University of Miami Frost School of Music’s Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra are featured on today’s Concord Music Group’s release of the legendary George Benson’s latest album: Inspiration: A Tribute to Nat King Cole. The Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra is a highly selective ensemble that provides a new spectrum of artistic creation and exploration, and was chosen by Benson to record this release. The artistic director is Terence Blanchard.
After four years of touring and developing “An Unforgettable Tribute to Nat King Cole,” including a Jazz Roots concert at the Adrienne Arsht Center accompanied by the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, Benson considers this recording one of the most meaningful of his career and is a testament to the spirit of Cole’s timeless body of work. Benson’s heartfelt renditions of some of Cole’s greatest songs with Nelson Riddle arrangements and the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra are complemented by duets with Tony Award winner Idina Menzel and rising star Judith Hill, along with a special collaboration with multi-GRAMMY and Pulitzer Prize-winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. The sessions with the HMI Orchestra were recorded at the Hit Factory/Criteria Studios in North Miami. Click here for video and audio previews.
“I felt every moment of it. You can’t put together a record like this without putting your heart into it. I got that from Nat King Cole. He put his heart into everything he did,” said Benson.
As a dream project for Benson, this album is a love letter to Cole and a tribute to his deep musical inspiration. It also demonstrates how uniquely suited Benson is to recreate and interpret these timeless treasures. Highlights on the album performed by the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra include an adaptation of Nelson Riddle’s arrangement of “Just One of Those Things,” with a signature Benson vocal/guitar scat solo, and Benson’s reading of the original chart of “Nature Boy,” which he previously interpreted and made and a pop hit in the late ’70s.
Benson masterfully covers the classic “Smile,” with German jazz musician Till Brönner on trumpet. The song, originally written by Charlie Chaplin for his 1936 film Modern Times, was first sung by Cole in 1954 when John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added lyrics. The album also contains stunning duets with Idina Menzel on “When I Fall In Love,” and Judith Hill on “Too Young,” as well the incomparable trumpet work of Wynton Marsalis on a fresh new arrangement of “Unforgettable.”
The careers of Benson and Cole share a similar arc, both establishing themselves first as highly respected instrumentalists before skyrocketing to crossover success once they began sharing their unforgettable voices with the world. Better known as a jazz pianist first, Nat King Cole’s major breakthrough came when he added his melting baritone voice to “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” Benson, who had a well-established career as one of the world’s top jazz guitarists, made his major break in the pop world by singing “This Masquerade” and subsequently had the first jazz album to go platinum with Breezin. Yet, both of these remarkable artists remained true to their jazz roots as this album revels with 12 covers of Cole’s most endearing repertoire.
About Frost School of Music
The Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music is one of two schools created in 1926 when the University of Miami was founded. With over 700 students and 100 faculty, it is one of the largest and best music schools located in a private university in the U.S., and one of the most comprehensive in all of higher education. The naming gift from Dr. Phillip and Patricia Frost in 2003 was one of the historic highlights in the life of the School.
The mission of the Frost School of Music is to foster musical leadership by providing an innovative, relevant, and inspiring education; advance performance, creativity and scholarship; and enrich the world community with meaningful outreach and brilliant cultural offerings.
The Frost School has pioneered new curricula and was the first in the nation to offer professionally accredited bachelor and master degrees in Music Business and Music Engineering Technology, was among the first to offer degrees in Music Therapy, and Studio Music and Jazz. Renowned for its Instrumental Performance programs, it is the home of the Frost Chamber Orchestra, Frost Symphony Orchestra, and Frost Concert Jazz Band and is a leader in vocal training with the Frost Opera Theater, Frost Chorale and other notable choirs.
Frost is the exclusive home of the Frost Experiential Music Curriculum which fully integrates performance, music theory, ear training, music history and composition through chamber music and skills ensembles; the Henry Mancini Institute which provides students with cross-genre performance opportunities in real-world professional settings; the Stamps Family Distinguished Visitors Series which brings free music master classes and lectures to the community; and the Bruce Hornsby Creative American Music Program which develops the creative skills of talented young artist/songwriters by immersing them in the diverse traditions of American songwriting.
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