Thursday, September 15, 2011

Benny Green: Source

JLP Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Source

Many factors determine the fame of individual musical artists, and talent is only one of them. If you’re born at the wrong time, and have to compete with those who already been identified as sensational, it’s easy to remain overlooked; such is the case for pianist Benny Green, who was born in New York in 1963 and grew up in Berkeley, California.

The piano icons ruling the roost at that time included Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson, and there just wasn’t enough spotlight left over for guys like Green to be noticed by the public. That wasn’t the case in the jazz world, however; Green’s discography shows how well regarded he was by fellow artists.

As a teen, Green was a member of bop vocalist Betty Carter’s group in 1976 and was featured at the Monterey Jazz festival in ’78. He was quite the innovator. Art Blakey hired him in the mid-’80s, and Green also had stints with Freddie Hubbard, Ray Brown and many, many other name artists. In fact, it’s hard to find someone Green hasn’t played or recorded with.

Green began to release his own albums in the late 1980s, and he continued throughout the ’90s. That said, Source is his first release in about a decade, although he has toured almost continuously.

The genesis for this album was a tour with Japanese guitarist Satoshi Inoue, who chose Green, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (no relation) as his rhythm section. Following that gig, Green and the Washingtons played a number of dates before returning to the States; that, in turn, led to this album.

The title refers to artists who were inspirations to Green, and the menu includes tunes that those artists composed and/or regularly performed, such as Sonny Clark’s “Blue Minor” and Carl Perkins’ “Way ‘Cross Town.” Others came from Kenny Drew, Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Byrd, Benny Golson, Horace Silver and Bud Powell. My favorite is the Mel Torme ballad, “Born to be Blue,” which I haven’t heard since the singer’s passing; Green’s treatment of this song is beautiful.

Let’s hear more from this excellent artist!

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