The genre of memoirs by jazz musicians is a rich one, filled with tales of trials and tribulations as well as success stories. To make a memoir work, the author has to not only recall events and feelings from the past correctly, but also manage to project the right tone and voice, with genuine rather than false humility. On top of that, we readers would like to learn something about the author that we didn’t know before, which presents another challenge. Every memoir here except (spoiler alert!) Charles Mingus’ required an assist from a writer or editor, who deserves credit for helping to bring the project home.
Too many people see George Benson as the singing pop star who plays smooth jazz guitar—which, although not inaccurate, isn’t the full story. A virtuoso and innovator on his instrument, he was the true successor to Wes Montgomery and cut his teeth on the organ-trio and small jazz-combo circuit of the '50s and early '60s. Benson reveals his own problems dealing with bandleaders of all stripes during that time. Like most jazz memoirs, his story shines brightest during the dark years of scuffling and struggle.