We hope you've made the journey these past thirty plus years with pianist Benny Green
. From hotshot young lion to keeper of the jazz flame he has consistently electrified audiences with his live performances. Live In Santa Cruz
recorded at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center follows up on a recording he made as bassist Ray Brown
's sideman twenty years ago. Green built a career, first as an apprentice to Betty Carter
, then Art Blakey
, Freddie Hubbard
, then Brown. His career as a leader found early success with first Blue Note, then Telarc, and more recently, his revival with Sunnyside. As the market, or perhaps marketing departments, ebbed and flowed into then out of a taste for traditional jazz, Green's exposure has waxed and waned.
What hasn't diminished are his skills at the keyboard, and more importantly, his knack for entertaining audiences.
Playing Santa Cruz, side-by-side with Testifying: Live At The Village Vanguard
(Blue Note, 1992) confirms his status as a true jazz maestro. The pianist recorded these tracks on his annual performance at Kuumbwa Jazz Center, and the audience ready, willing and primed for his appearance. The nine tracks are all originals, they range form the firecracker opener "Certainly" to the slow drag blues "Golden Flamingo," and an intricately simple ballad "Forgiveness."
Green's music works best in a trio format. Here he calls upon his musical twin, drummer Kenny Washington
and bassist David Wong to favor the music. The crowd's energy is felt throughout. Green reintroduces "Phoebe's Samba," a composition written for his sister and recorded years ago on Lineage
(Blue Note, 1990). The energy rises here and on his mayhem cyclone tribute to the hard bop pianist "Sonny Clark." Green's facility and hardwire swing carry the day. "Bish Bash" summons the spirit of Bud Powell
at his bebop height, and the final track "Anna's Blues" has the crown on their feet. Green's music dares you to not clap, dance, or smile. Can't be done.