Conversely, when Benson and Jarreau approach the Miles Davis-written "Four," they seem intent on taking an approach that says, "This is a standard so we need it to sound like a standard." There's nothing really wrong with the performance. But what we really want to hear is the creativity and intensity Benson and Jarreau are capable of displaying individually and collectively.
That is not to say none of that exists on the CD. "'Long Come Tutu" is an extended, far jazzier piece in which Jarreau adds lyrics to Marcus Miller's "Tutu." It features not only Jarreau's vocal talents but shows Benson in a more traditional jazz setting and he turns in what is unquestionably his best solo on the CD. The impact is bolstered by the excellent sidework of composer Miller on bass and piano legend McCoy Tyner. Similarly, Jarreau trades verses with Jill Scott on a nice rendition of "God Bless the Child" and Benson shows his own not inconsiderable vocal talents on the ballad "All I Am." Jarreau and Benson even turn "Ordinary People," written by John Legend and will.i.am, into a smooth jazz-tinged, largely instrumental work featuring Benson's guitar.
The problem, though, is what Benson and Jarreau seem to have suffered separately over the last several years. Portions of their work are absolutely stunning. But equally as often they seem to be artists trying too hard to find commercial success and, thus, trying to be too much to too many. As a result, their efforts, like this CD, seem to lack direction. Like their past work, parts of Givin' it Up are stellar while other parts leave you wondering if these can be the same musicians who just enthralled you.
As a result, fans of either artist will find this an acceptable to distinguished effort but detractors will point to it as another example of a tendency to underachieve. Perhaps the latter comes with the territory when you have the considerable talents these gentlemen possess.