"Benny Green has already established himself as an important voice in the jazz world. This collection of solo piano works delivers a high level of artistry which further illustrates his creativity and command of the instrument. His arrangements are strong and clever—his improvisations both poignant and dazzling. The making of this record was a wonder to behold and a pleasure to produce." —producer John Clayton
Paying homage to one's mentors and predecessors is an established rite of passage among jazz artists. Rising above one's influences to make a unique statement of individual artistry is the next step in a journey that few players are able to traverse. Not so for Benny Green, the piano virtuoso who has long since stepped out on his own after having graduated from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers training ground. He has been dazzling listeners and earning international respect for over two decades and several records as a leader.
Like his playing, Benny casts a unique perspective on his choice of repertoire on Green's Blues. "After playing in the bands of two of the strongest time-players ever, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Art Blakey, I have longed to take on the challenge to swing on my own in the pure medium of solo piano—without the safety net of a powerful rhythm section to propel the music." He is possessed of a confidence and poise that comes from years of studying the masters like "Fats" Waller, Art Tatum, Erroll Garner and Bud Powell.
But it's Benny's ability to take a tune and make it his own that has elevated him from student to master. Take Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean A Thing" for instance and listen to the way in which Green maintains such a keen sense of melody, harmony and rhythm, all the while adding some very playful, personal touches. He can also invest a song with a deep emotionality, as is evident on Gershwin's, "Someone To Watch Over Me," adding a few stride flourishes in what is truly an inspired reading.
Nowhere is that inspiration more evident than on the Green's Blues, the only original composition among the twelve tracks. Displaying the kind of chops that earned him the Protege Prize (bestowed by Oscar Peterson in 1993), Green cuts a path through the many jazz styles that have informed his playing and leaves no doubt that he is a voice worth listening to.
Benny began his studies of classical piano at the age of seven and became exposed to jazz through the influence of his father, who played tenor sax. He studied the bebop sounds by listening to records and played in high school bands until he caught the attention of singer Fay Carroll, who taught him invaluable lessons about accompaniment and the blues. Green returned to New York City from the West Coast in 1982 and joined Betty Carter's band a year later. After four years with the leading vocalist in jazz, he assumed the piano chair in Blakey's prestigious Jazz Messengers. His first two albums were issued by Criss Cross Records but with the Blue Note debut, Lineage, Green began to attract widespread attention and respect as an exciting new pianist.
His previous Telarc release, Naturally (CD-83498), featured bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone, musicians who both inspired and challenged him to explore new territory. With the release of Green's Blues, the pianist seems to have come full circle, returning to his roots and updating the tradition with his highly personal style.