back stage — music notes
I first heard Benny Green back in the late 1980’s I went to see Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, and there was this young, gawky kid playing piano, and he blew me away!
I had heard of the young, Berkeley High graduate, but really wasn’t prepared for what I heard. He had so much going on, swing, big ears, a great sense of rhythm, incredible taste, and he burned too! The next time I saw him, he was with playing with the great Ray Brown! This time, I got to hear more of him as it was just a trio. It seemed like he was playing even better, he was growing and maturing and an amazing player. Needless to say, I have been a fan of his playing ever since first hearing him.
In the early 90’s he recorded with his own band, and started working all over the place. He has recorded with Bobby Watson, Freddie Hubbard, Christian McBride, Roy Hargrove, Diana Krall, he even recorded with Oscar Peterson, one of his idols.
Benny’s done a lot of things, but no matter what, he’s always been an inventive, sensitive, and most importantly, swinging jazz player with great chops. He’s been to Yoshi’s many times in different settings. In fact, his most recent appearance was with clarinet player Anat Cohen, just last month. It was the first time I had heard Benny play in a few years, and I couldn’t believe how great he was playing. Every tune his playing caught my ear. His touch, his sense of rhythm, his surprising ideas, all just amazed me throughout the set. I came away from the gig raving about Benny!
His appearance at Yoshi’s over Memorial Day week-end, will be his first as a leader in quite some time, and it’s really a great group. Peter Washington on bass, and Kenny Washington on drums are two of the most in demand players in New York, and they’ve both been friends with Benny for a long time. For me, history like this makes for great music, and I can’t wait for the show.
Benny is a jazz lover, he loves the classic Bluenote recordings, is a big fan of Oscar Peterson, he can swing his butt off, and he’s got chops that can’t be beat. I’ve always had a thing for burning players, and Benny is indeed one of them. If you like your jazz to swing, to be fun and surprising this is one you won’t want to miss.
Jimmy Heath calls him Benny Mean, because plays so mean....