The Chris Greene Quartet is willing to try anything once. No matter the genre of music, put it in this group's capable hands and bear witness to music taking on a whole new style and feel. On the group's third recording, Merge, saxophonist Chris Greene leads his quartet of four years all over the musical spectrum. Tackling songs by the likes of Billy Strayhorn, Johnny Green, Madonna and The Black Eyed Peas, as well as original material from Greene and pianist Damian Espinosa, the saxophonist's approach is like that of a mad scientisthe throws a little bit of everything together and offers the finished product to the world in a fun and beautifully executed package.
The opening tune, "Good Riddance," sets the tone for what Merge representsa good time with friends who know you well enough to support you when you need it and who know well enough to take a step back when you don't. Throughout the mid-to-up-tempo groove, it's clear that these guys are comfortable playing with each other. Greene's sax work is the driving force of the record, but without Espinosa, bassist Marc Piane and drummer Tyrone Blair there to back him up this is just another recording from a saxophonist trying to lead a band. There's none of that present herethese guys are airtight and Greene is the better for it.
"M. Tati" features arguably some of the recording's best piano and bass work, while The Black Eyed Peas hit "L.F.E.I. (Let's Get It Started)" is probably one of the most creatively performed and Espinosa's "In Confidence" is definitely one of the catchiest and smoothest tunes featured.
Despite Merge's nine songs worth of well-played performances, Greene's "Coffee and Scotch," along with Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom" and Johnny Green's "Out of Nowhere," are the stars of the show. Each song is approached beautifully, with the quartet sounding at its most cohesive; Blair contributes excellent drum and percussion work on "Coffee and Scotch," Piane and Espinosa are back with stunning contributions on "Out of Nowhere," and Greene performs throughout, with such a confidence and contagious joy that it's easy to see why any musician worth his weight in salt would want to perform with him.
There's nothing better than listening to music performed by musicians who aren't afraid to take a chance, but who also treat the music with respect. Such is the way of the Chris Greene Quartet. Merge is a solid record from a solid group of musicians.
Good Riddance; You'll Thank Me Later; M. Tati; L.F.E.I. (Let's Get it Started); Coffee 'n' Scotch; Lotus Blossom; Out of Nowhere; In Confidence; Borderline.
Chris Greene: saxophones; Damian Espinosa: piano, keyboards; Marc Piane: double-bass; Tyrone Blair: drums, percussion.