As Mosaic’s ingenious new series of reissues continues, we come to an artist where the approach seems certainly tailor made. Trombone man Bennie Green bridged the gap between swing era stylists and bop practitioners, making him somewhat of an enigma in the eyes and ears of the casual jazz follower. As such, he has not received recognition commensurate with his undeniable talents.
It’s even curious that Blue Note front man Alfred Lion stuck with Green for as many albums as he did, considering his penchant for documenting the latest developments in jazz and Green being a throwback to earlier styles. More akin to the voices of Vic Dickenson and Jack Teagarden than bop leaders such as J.J. Johnson and Curtis Fuller, Green’s creative muse focused on a sound influenced by the trombone’s tailgate tradition and a sense of melody that the boppers often gave up in search of speed.
After spending years as a sideman working with such leaders as Charlie Ventura and Earl Bostic, Bennie Green first appeared as a leader on Blue Note in March of 1958, recording Back On the Scene in the company of such heavy hitters as tenor man Charlie Rouse and drummer Louis Hayes. Curiously enough, fellow trombonist and writer Melba Liston contributes two numbers to a program of mainly standards – and while the results aren’t all that remarkable, Green certainly proves to be his own man in his many solo statements. Far more rewarding would be Soul Stirrin’, recorded just a month later but with more of an emphasis on a bluesy and soulful groove that was boosted even further by the presence of Gene Ammons and an up-and-coming Elvin Jones on drums.
First issued posthumously in Japan, the numbers recorded at the end of ’58 for release as 45 RPM singles would arguably constitute some of the best work Green would document for Blue Note. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Sonny Clark and Paul Chambers were among the participants. Clocking in at around five minutes apiece, each number is a minor gem filled with potent solo work and the type of swinging élan that Lion reveled in.
The last session that Green would lead for Blue Note took place in January of 1959, the results released as Walkin’ and Talkin’, one of the most sought after items by collectors of original vinyl pressings from this era. Tenor man Eddy Williams is on hand again and his underrated playing makes for a nice discovery, although the same thing could be said for the equally neglected pianist Gildo Mahones.
Fittingly, this set concludes with five numbers recorded under the leadership of Ike Quebec in 1962. Released on the album Congo Lament, these trinkets find our trombone man sharing the front line along with Quebec and Stanley Turrentine. With Sonny Clark and Art Blakey filling out the potent rhythm section and Green providing a few of the charts, the results are nothing short of magical. Although Green’s oeuvre also includes work for the Prestige, Time, and Bethlehem labels, his legacy stands firm on the Blue Note recordings gathered together here. A wonderful hybrid of soul, swing, and bop manifests itself in these must-hear performances.
Issued in limited editions of 5000, this recording is available solely through Mosaic Records; 35 Melrose Place; Stamford, CT. 06902; (203) 327-7111. Check their website at www.mosaicrecords.com for more information.
Personnel: Bennie Green (trombone) with Charlie Rouse, Sonny Clark, Louis Hayes, Gildo Mahones, Eddy Williams, Babs Gonzales, and many others.