The Music of Benny Green

Jz_bennygreen_2Jazz pianist Benny Green, one of the most popular performers and teachers in the country, will be returning to Jazz Port Townsend in 2008!

Born in New York in 1963, Benny Green grew up in Berkeley, California, and began classical piano studies at the age of seven. His attention, however, soon turned into jazz.

"I began trying to improvise on the piano, imitating the records I’d been hearing from my father’s collection, which included a lot of Monk and Bird… it was a gradual process of teaching myself," Green says. He played in school bands before hooking up with singer Fay Carroll, saying, "That was good training for me in terms of accompaniment and learning about the blues, and she also gave me a chance to play trio, opening for her every night."

As a teenager, Green worked with Eddie Henderson, and got some big band experience with a twelve.jpgece group led by Chuck Israels. Back in the Big Apple, he met veteran pianist Walter Bishop Jr. "I began studying with him and he helped point me in the direction of developing my own sound," Green says. "He also encouraged me to check out and study the whole scope of jazz piano history, so I could get a sense of how I was to fit in".

After a short stint with Bobby Watson, Green worked with Betty Carter between 1983 and 1987, the year he joined Art Blakey’s band. He later worked with Freddie Hubbard’s quintet.

[Benny Green on piano]

In 1993, Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the City of Toronto’s Glen Gould International Protégé Prize in Music. That year, Green replaced Gene Harris in Ray Brown’s Trio, working with the veteran bass player until 1997. From 1997 on, Benny resumed his freelance career, led his own trios, and concentrated on his solo piano performances. He has also recorded with Diana Krall.

In 2000, his debut recording on Telarc Jazz, Naturally was released, which featured bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone, musicians who have both inspired and challenged him to explore new territory. With the 2002 release of Green’s Blues, Benny returned to his roots and updated the tradition with an exciting solo collection of jazz standards by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner and George Gershwin, among others, with his highly personal style.

A perpetual student of the history of Jazz piano, Benny Green mentions Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Hank Jones, Ahmad Jamal, Phineas Newborn, Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson as some of his main influences. His approach to Jazz can be resumed in his own words: "… for myself and a lot of musicians I admire, the main focus is to just swing and have fun, and share those feelings with the audience … and, if I’m able to convey that, then I feel like I’m doing something positive".

Benny is currently on tour to support the January 28, 2003 release on Telarc, Jazz at the Bistro, a duo recording with guitarist Russell Malone, dedicated to the memory of the late jazz bassist Ray Brown.