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Green's Blues

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 9, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

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Green's Blues is the first CD in pianist Benny Green's already distinguished career to feature an entire program of solo piano. That genre offers nowhere to hide, but Green has the necessary chops, imagination, and power to shine in the spotlight--not for nothing is he Oscar Peterson's official protégé. The 12 tracks abound in melodious, swinging enterprise, and despite a suitably contemporary harmonic sophistication, there's a delightfully old-fashioned feel to much of the music. Green eschews the kind of emphasis on rhapsodic, free-wheeling exploration that characterizes the solo performances of Tyner, Jarrett, and Bill Evans, centering his attention instead on the classic patterns of stride and boogie-woogie. His efforts are as convincing as they are affectionate, and they are notably inventive, too: his reading of Garner's "Misty" owes nothing to the composer, while "I Got It Bad" is a nobly individual version of Ellington's incomparable lament. The CD is on the short side at 52 minutes, and a severe critic might add that it will prove but a minor footnote in the literature of solo piano jazz. Maybe so, but that matters little when there is so much pleasure and fine playing on offer. --Richard Palmer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 9, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B00005JH7G
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #166,199 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Playing exposed without a rhythm section is the ultimate challenge for an improvising soloist. Nonetheless, in the early decades of jazz, players such as Earl Hines, Fats Waller, and Art Tatum established daunting standards, in terms of virtuosity, touch, swing, blues feeling, rhythmic displacement, melodic variation, harmonic richness, improvisational ingenuity, etc. There are only a small number of classics of the solo piano genre in the era of the long-playing record and the CD, in part because sustaining solo invention and variety for 40+ minutes is amazingly difficult. 1968 was for me the watershed year, with arguably the two finest contributions ever to this genre: Bill Evans's "Alone" and Oscar Peterson's "My Favorite Instrument." Since then, my own short list of outstanding solo jazz piano albums includes Peterson's "Tracks," Earl Hines' "Tour de Force," Evans's "Alone (Again)," Hank Jones' "Solo Piano," McCoy Tyner's "Revelations" and "Soliloquy," Roland Hanna's "Duke Ellington Piano Solos," and Marcus Roberts's "Alone with Three Giants." Others might like to add one or more of Keith Jarrett's rhapsodic outings or something by Dave McKenna or Brad Mehldau's "Elegiac Cycle" or . . . Hey, make your own lists!

To my list I've added "Green's Blues."

Benny Green, for some unfathomable reason, remains an underrated player (a number of his excellent Blue Note recordings, for instance, have gone out of print, which is a crime given the garbage that remains in print). No doubt the simplistic notion that Green is "merely" an Oscar Peterson clone has done his reputation damage. But given that Oscar could do it all, that's hardly an insult. Anyone who knows both players well, however, can easily hear the difference.
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If I could give this album six stars I would. This is a wonderful demonstration of rich jazz piano solo playing that pulls the greatest qualities out of one of the most magnificent instruments on the planet -- the big beautiful concert grand piano!
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Format: Audio CD
Benny Green is usually a relatively 'busy' player at the piano as demonstrated on the majority of his previous albums, however I disagree with the last review stating that this disc represents nothing more than a showoff. This album shows Green's command over the keyboard, in particular often exercising his stride technique. An inspired rendition of It Dont Mean A Thing is a highlight for me and I can honestly recommend this disc to any jazz lover - especially those who dig Green already.
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Format: Audio CD
When Benny Green came to Boston with Ray Brown and Russell Malone a few years ago, I attended every set over three nights. I had been blown away by "Testifyin'"; and to this day, "These Are Soulful Days" remains the best piano/bass/guitar album I've heard since Nat Cole and Oscar Peterson. Green is a talented pianist -- and, by the way, a warm, friendly man.

I don't recall Ray Brown doing any solo tunes at the Regattabar, but both Green and Malone took their turns. Malone's ballad arrangements were lyrical, coherent, and clever. They were among his best moments. Green's solos, by contrast, were his weakest. He's a hard-hitting player in a trio; but without that support, he loses some steam. The problem persists here.

In simple terms, he leans too heavily on block chords. Every time he lifts his right hand, he grabs three notes. His rhythm is flawless, but he lacks nuance and grace. It's fine for stride to feel clunky and unwieldy; that's part of its charm. But as soon as he shifts into modern vocabulary, charm becomes sink weight. He never shakes it off.

Maybe as a Boston resident, I'm spoiled. I've heard Dave McKenna play ballads, and I've seen Bruce Katz boogie-woogie. Solo piano is a challenge. There's a lot of space to fill, and it takes a creative ear to know how much space to fill, when, and with what. It's an entirely different sensitivity than playing with bass and drums. And Green isn't quite there yet.

I definitely wouldn't steer you away from Benny Green. "These Are Soulful Days" is a five-star CD, required listening for straight-ahead jazz fans. "Bu's March," a knockout track from his Vanguard CD, raised the eyebrows of everyone who heard it, and for good reason. The man's a monster player -- but solo recital isn't his best profile, and this CD isn't his best work. Check out the aforementioned albums or his work with the Ray Brown Trio. Leave this one on the shelf.
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By S. Hirsh on September 14, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Benny Green is an amazing pianist. His time is perfect and his technique is superb. He swings harder than any pianist today. Dig his dynamics.
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