The veteran “smooth jazz” masters join forces on this entertaining little disc (which features some help from some of their friends along the way.) Jarreau is in fine voice throughout and Benson’s nimble, tasteful guitar provides a tuneful foundation for every cut.
Givin' it Up opens with Jarreau adding lyrics to a jaunty version of Benson’s “Breezin’” and Benson returning the favor with a tasty mostly instrumental version (“mostly instrumental” because Jarreau adds some restrained but effective vocalese to the proceedings on this cut) of Jarreau’s hit “Mornin’”.
The duo stretches out with vocal versions of a couple of tunes taken from the Miles Davis songbook: “Tutu” featuring some sweet fretwork by Benson, some fairly nimble scatting by Jarreau, and some lovely piano by Herbie Hancock and “Four”, which adds Benson’s vocals to the mix to fine effect.
Benson steps up to the mike for a nice duet with the always-amazing Jill Scott on Billie Holiday’s immortal “God Bless the Child” and then he joins Jarreau with harmony vocals on a soulful version of the Seals & Crofts chestnut “Summer Breeze”. The two trade leads on the funky strut of “Givin’ it Up for Love” and an effective cover of Daryl Hall’s “Every Time You Go Away” (which was a hit in the 80’s for Paul Young.) Benson takes the solo vocal on the sweet love song “All I Am”.
A mostly instrumental take (Jarreau chants/sings the chorus) of John Legend’s “Ordinary People” is soothing and fine and will probably spend a lot of time in the rotation of your friendly neighborhood “smooth jazz” station.
“Let it Rain”, a slow burning new tune co-written by Jarreau, features Chris Botti adding some very nice trumpet fills and accents and Jarreau sharing the mike with the great Patti Austin. “Don’t Start No Stuff” locks into a funky, propulsive groove…kept moving by Benson’s soulful guitar work and Jarreau’s infectious vocalizing…and doesn’t let go.
Paul McCartney (who happened to be recording in the next studio when Benson and Jarreau were working on this disc)…in very fine R&B voice…brings the collection to a joyfully ragged, gospel-tinged conclusion by taking the lead on an energetic version of Sam Cooke’s “Bring it on Home to Me”.
Very nice indeed.