Santa Cruz Good Times

Friday
Feb 12th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Paying it Forward

music BennyGreenTrioPianist Benny Green wants jazz’s past to continue to inform its future

I can honestly say I’m still learning.” Hearing such an admirable, humble statement from someone like Benny Green—a jazz pianist, arranger, composer and band leader whose 30-plus year career includes performances and recordings with jazz luminaries like Oscar Peterson, Art Blakey and Betty Carter—might be surprising at first. But Green’s insatiable desire to keep learning has served him well. That desire—and his deep love of jazz—is something he wants today’s younger musicians to feel, too.

“The word ‘jazz’ is used all the time, but what it means nowadays is on such a sliding scale,” Green says. “The word is being abused. The rhythmic aspects are often taken for granted with young folks seeking to fuse jazz with something else, i.e. jazz hip-hop, when they haven’t actually gotten meaningful jazz experience first to be able to fuse with anything.”

Green knows a lot about meaningful performance experience. When he was 19, he moved from Berkeley, Calif. to New York City with the sole purpose of becoming part of Art Blakey’s band, the Jazz Messengers. He knew Blakey’s music inside and out, but he also knew that would not be enough if he wanted to get Blakey’s attention, so he was grateful when Betty Carter invited him to play with her band.

“I would never have been ready to play with Art, musically, just being enthusiastic and knowing his repertoire,” Green admits. “I was absolutely green in terms of experience. Betty gave me enough experience so that when I started with Art four years later, even though I felt like I was starting from scratch in a way because of the instrumental contrasts, I did have that experience.”

As Green’s career has progressed, his vision for what he wants to do with his music has crystallized. This is most evident in the fact that he self-produced his newest album, Magic Beans. Inspiration for the album stemmed from women (“La Portuguesa”) to “Jack and the Beanstalk” (“Magic Beans”). Green shows off his dizzying piano-playing skills on the upbeat “Flying Saucer,” and the straight-ahead jazz track “Benny’s Crib” carries within it a free-wheeling feeling which encapsulates Green’s entire experience recording the record.

“It was so liberating to not have someone trying to steer me!” Green laughs. “It makes all the difference in the world to not have someone telling me what they think I should do, or what they think people should hear.”

Green, whose father was a tenor saxophone player and challenged him to be authentic with his piano playing, takes his craft very seriously and loves performing live, especially at Kuumbwa Jazz, which holds a special place in his heart. It was there that he celebrated his 30th birthday, while recording Bassface as a sideman with Ray Brown in 1993. As such, he has something special planned for his shows on June 24 and 25.

“We’ll be recording both shows from the upcoming engagement for a future live CD release, and we’re going to be playing almost entirely new original music,” says Green. “Kuumbwa is just about my favorite club in the whole world. I have such history with Kuumbwa, and playing for the audience there feels like home for me.

“I feel very strongly about this music,” he continues. “I’ve been treated like family by some real masters, and so I actually feel a responsibility, being a Jazz Messenger, and having gotten to play with real jazz musicians, that while I’m here I’m going to do my best to represent my experiences.” 


Benny Green will perform at 7 p.m. Monday, June 24, and again at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 25 at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $22/adv, $25/door. For more information, call 427-2227.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Benny Green is a Genius
written by ValerieB, June 28, 2013
Benny Green is not only a spectacular musician/composer but, even more importantly to me, one of the nicest, most generous, warm, loving, humble, brilliant people I've met. bless you, Benny, and keep being who you are.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Making Dreams

Coen brothers salute vintage Hollywood in sly comedy ‘Hail, Caesar!’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Pub Watch

Mega gastro pub-in-progress at the Old Sash Mill, plus the best pasta dish downtown

 

How do you know love is real?

When you feel the groove in your heart and you’re inspired to dance. Becca Bing, Boulder Creek, Teacher

 

Temple of Umami

Watsonville’s Miyuki is homestyle cooking, Japanese-style

 

How would you stop people from littering?

Teach them from the time that they’re small that it’s not an appropriate behavior. Juliet Jones, Santa Cruz, Claims Adjuster