It's hard to believe that it's been over fifteen years now since a young, cherub-faced pianist by the name of Benny Green took the stage with vocal legend Betty Carter and began turning heads. Stints with Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, and Ray Brown would follow, along with an active recording career that put several albums under his belt.
With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding Blue Note's 60th anniversary and Benny's own 10 year run on the label, it seemed that a special recorded artifact would have to be produced to mark this occasion. These Are Soulful Days is indeed an atypical gem from the Green catalog. Opting for a drummer-less format that takes its cue from Nat King Cole's classic trio, the pianist is partnered with guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Christian McBride and both take active roles in these musical conversations. Each tune is voiced in a particular fashion, with each player taking turns sharing the lead. Solos are nicely paced too, with Malone almost stealing the show at times with his bent notes and bluesy lines.
It should also be noted that the tunes chosen by Benny have come from a variety of classic Blue Note albums. While the hard bop appeal of Horace Silver's "Come On Home" and Lee Morgan's "Hocus-Pocus" seem to be tailor made for Green's soulful and funky approach, the reflective eloquence displayed on "Summer Nights" reveals that his stylistic bag contains more than just one trick. With Green's past efforts revealing him to be primarily a hard bopper, that cut and really this entire album indicate that he is uncovering new ground and finding himself musically.