GARY BENSON (guitarist), respected by his peers as “one the hardest swinging players on the jazz scene”, has made a significant contribution to jazz in Toronto in a distinguished career spanning three decades. Whether backing up a long list of jazz vocalists, including such luminaries as Peggy Lee, and Natalie Cole, or playing with other jazz groups and jazz greats including Peter Appelyard and Ed Bickert, Benson has set a consistently high standard of excellence. He has worked at both the Stratford Festival and Shaw Festivals, and has been seen frequently in television appearances.
In 1989, Benson founded the Canadian Jazz Quartet (CJQ) with percussionist Don Vickery, and, with the addition of vibist Frank Wright, and most recently, bassist Duncan Hopkins, the CJQ has become one of Canada’s most consistent swinging jazz groups. The Canadian Jazz Quartet has released four albums, including Street of Dreams and C.J.Q. Their third album, Friends, was released in 2009 and features trombonist Alistair Kay, flutist Bill McBirnie, and saxophonist Mike Murley. Their fourth album, Brazilian Reflections, was released in 2011 and features several Brazilian compositions as well as four originals by Benson.
Benson studied composition in Toronto with the late Gordon Delamont and with the New York-based legendary guitarist, Jim Hall. An accomplished composer and arranger in his own right, the CJQs’ CDs feature several of Gary’s original compositions including Labrador, a haunting melody that lingers long in the listener’s mind, reflects another of Gary’s passions, his love of nature. He is also a gifted teacher and many of his students over the years have gone on to establish successful careers of their own, all carrying part of Benson’s unique influence with them.
Gary Benson performed with the Canadian Jazz Quartet in two Sound of Toronto Jazz Concerts; the first on October 21, 1996; the second on January 12, 2004.
Gray Benson passed away in March, 2014 at the age of 75.