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Rodney Green Quartet: Live At Jazzhus Montmartre

Chris Mosey By

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At the age of three, at the church in Camden, New Jersey, where his father was pastor, Rodney Green saw a drum kit for the first time. He stared at it, fascinated; it was so big and shiny. He thought to himself, "OK, let's play some drums."

He wasn't supposed to play jazz, it was the devil's music. But he just couldn't help himself. Now Green says, "In every memory I have, I play the drums." At the age of 14 he started taking lessons and his first idol was Tony Williams "because he was only 17 when he started playing with Miles Davis. I told myself: 'He did it. I can do it too!'"

Green still relies on this "can do" spirit. Putting together a band for this 2016 gig at the legendary Copenhagen jazz club, Jazzhus Montmartre, he started from the premise "Real jazz musicians must be able to meet and play without discussions or long rehearsals and just let their instruments speak."

He recruited Baltimore vibraphonist Warren Wolf, a graduate of Berklee College of Music, in Boston, then arranged to borrow a vibraphone from Per Jensen, of the Royal Danish Orchestra, for the gig in Copenhagen. The line-up was completed with Danish pianist Jacob Christoffersen and American bassist David Wong. That was it—no rehearsals, just three nights of fine, hard swinging jazz at Montmartre, which those who were present still rave about.

Christian Brorsen, the club's former musical director, who produced this album of the event, says: "It all looks so simple when Green's sitting there behind the drum set. There's no showing off, but it always sounds incredibly good. Rodney's got it all: good taste, a dazzling technique and a formidable beat. The audience couldn't get enough."

The session kicks off with "Bud Powell," Chick Corea's tribute to one of the bebop greats. This is followed by another Corea number, "Humpty Dumpty," from his 1978 Akoustic Band album based on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. It's high octane stuff —no room for mistakes.

Though there's a bad one from the record's producers in wrongly accrediting Johnny Mandel's "Emily" to Bill Evans. The tune -used as the title song of the 1964 movie, The Americanization Of Emily—was a great favourite of Evans but he never did of course actually make it his own!

Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't" acts as a prelude to a magnificent 13 minute version of Monk's classic ballad "Round Midnight," which—to judge from the applause, very nearly brought the jazzhus down. Wolf and Christoffersen fuse beautifully on this one, with the leader keeping a low profile, though always there when he's needed. The playing of what would seem to be a final statement of the theme is greeted with awed silence by the audience. But then Wolf uses some nifty improvised runs to keep things going before returning to the real final statement.

This is followed by a second tribute to Bud Powell, Miles Davis's "Budo," on which Christoffersen shines. With that, a great session comes to a close with a wildly swinging work-out of Cole Porter's "Just One Of Those Things" that includes, nearing close of play, a tasteful solo by Green. And with that "can do" is "done."

Track Listing: Bud Powell; Humpty Dumpty; Emily; Well You Needn’t; Round Midnight; Budo; Just One Of Those Things.

Personnel: Warren Wolf: vibraphone; Jacob Christoffersen: piano; David Wong: bass; Rodney Green: drums.

Title: Live At Jazzhus Montmartre | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Storyville Records

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