Jazz CD Reviews
Benny Green – Source – Jazz Legacy Productions
Published on July 15, 2011
Benny Green – Source – Jazz Legacy Productions – JLP 1001014, 53:54 ****½:
(Benny Green – piano; Peter Washington – bass; Kenny Washington – drums)
In the authentic tradition of jazz, Benny Green became inspired to play this music. Trained in classical piano, he began to improvise listening to his father’s Monk and Bird records. He worked with Eddie Henderson on the West Coast before moving to New York. There he earned his credentials with Betty Carter, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, and Ray Brown. This defined his respect for the shadings of hard bop and admiration for pianists like Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson (who described him as the “next Oscar Peterson”), Errol Garner, Hank Jones, Ahmad Jamal and Phineas Newborn. Like these legends, he is devoted to interpreting great compositions. His 2002 solo album featured material from Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, George Gershwin and many others. He combined his exceptional talent with an appreciation for the history of jazz pianists. During a hiatus in recording, he served as musical director for the Monterey Jazz Festival 50th Anniversary Band in 2008.
Source is Green’s first recording as a leader since 2004, and his first trio record since 2000. He combined with Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (after playing trio dates in Japan) to cut ten tracks of compositions he selected. First is Sonny Clark’s “Blue Minor” from the Cool Struttin’ album. The complex piano lead is deeply emotional but still swings. A bass solo and drum magic propel this jam. Another up tempo bop-blues number, Donald Byrd’s “Little T” gives the trio ample opportunity to rip through sharp tempo breaks and shuffle rhythm. Green is scintillating on Bud Powell’s classic, “Tempus Fugit”. The innate phrasing and time signatures elevate his status as a jazz swing traditionalist. The solos are fast paced and interesting.
Soulful and breezy, the take on Horace Silver’s “Opus De Funk” is graceful and full of attitude. Peter Washington gets an extended solo that fits perfectly. This is a trio hitting on all cylinders. A frenetic pace drives the bluesy undertone of Kenny Drew’s “Chant”. Again, Green’s solos are masterful and are framed by the distinctive drum brakes by Kenny Washington.
There is considerable artistry in the cover of Dizzy Gillespie’s poignant ballad, “I Waited For You”. Elegant piano runs flow into the melodic song structure. In this slower arrangement, the piano is delicate and creates a drifting melancholy. An unexpected version of Mel Torme’s “Born To Be Blue” is pensive but intriguing. Each track is listenable and vivid.
Benny Green’s Source is a fitting homage to the great jazz composers.
TrackList: Blue Minor; Way ‘Cross Town; I Waited For You; Little T; Cool Green; Tempus Fugit; Park Avenue Pettit; Chant; Born To Be Blue; Opus De Funk
— Robbie Gerson