May 22, 2000 12:00 PM

George Benson (GRP)

Versatile guitarist Benson, best known for his ’70s and ’80s R&B/jazz hits like “This Masquerade,” “On Broadway” and “Give Me the Night,” lends his nimble fretwork here to a wide array of genres and moods, from a down-home cover of Ray Charles’s “Come Back Baby” to a pulsating Latin-soul version of the late Donny Hathaway’s “The Ghetto.” On this, Benson’s first album in two years, the eight-time Grammy winner returns his emphasis to instrumentals rather than spotlighting his equally accomplished vocals. In fact, only three of the tracks (including the gritty Benson original “El Barrio,” with neo-salsa star India) have any lyrics at all. But even without the vocals, Benson (supported by jazz stalwarts Christian McBride on bass and Joe Sample on piano, among others) delivers a varied and inviting collection.

Bottom Line: Silky and satisfying

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