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Chris Greene: PlaySPACE 2: Play Harder

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Chris Greene: PlaySPACE 2: Play Harder
When a musician begins his set with a warning much like that issued in a pharmaceutical advertisement for mesothelioma, it's probably a safe assumption that those in attendance should brace themselves for what's to come. When that musician is Evanston, IL based bandleader and saxophonist Chris Greene one thing is certain: even after heeding the warning, there's still no way to fully prepare for the powerfully deliberate yet fun and funky approach to playing that each member of the Chris Greene Quartet possesses. Maybe that's what performing together for fifteen years will get you—musicians who know that no matter how far out there any one of them goes, there are three other guys who are with the shits too. At least he warned them, right?

Audience members fortunate enough to hear the CGQ during the recording of the band's live album PlaySPACE2: Play Harder not only stayed seated when Greene advised those with heart conditions to consider stepping out of the room, they laughed and hooted their approval as the band dove headfirst (pardon the pun) into their intense opening number "Divers." Written by long-time CGQ bassist Marc Piane, "Divers" explores what happens when creativity meets passion/purpose. The care taken at the beginning of "Divers" offers a false sense of routine and tradition as the song progresses and each member of the quartet transforms elements of chemistry, space, rhythm, and time into musical magic. All four band members solo, which is not unusual for jazz music, but what they do with their solos is the gift. Drummer Steve Corley is the tie that binds. His energetic opening solo and his accompaniment throughout the song make room for Greene, Piane, and pianist Damian Espinosa to take musical liberties that go from swinging hard bop to a touch of fusion to modern jazz to funk and back again.

Greene also contributed a composition to this project titled "Samba Fu Maga." The only song not recorded at the venue SPACE, "Samba Fu Maga" is familiar yet new and exciting all at once. The beauty and warmth of Greene's playing is an interesting approach to take on a song about the MAGA movement. That's one of the cool things about music and why the song works so well: though the focus could be pain, anger or heartbreak, at some point the tenderness, good-spiritedness and communal flow of the music offers a shift in perspectives from anger and loss to joy and satisfaction.

The CGQ also perform slowed-down versions of Duke Ellington's "Caravan," George Duke's "Omi (Fresh Water)," and Hank Williams Jr's "You Win Again." Though the approach the CGQ took in performing each song was a well-crafted, slowed-down variation of the original tunes, the CGQ executes beautifully, keeping the audience engaged at every turn. Each solo, each percussive element, each groove of the keys and the bass, and each technically sound and biting note from Greene's sax were individually and collectively well timed, well placed, and well done.

They say lightning never strikes twice. They were wrong. PlaySPACE2 is every bit the juggernaut the foundational PlaySPACE is, but this time, the guys came back with a vengeance. Maya Angelou may have warned against falling victim to celebrating accolades or wallowing in condemnations in the album's outro, but she also said "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Judging by the raucous applause from the crowd as the last song on the recording came to a close, job well done.

Track Listing

Divers (intro); Divers; Caravan; No Setlist!; Samba Fu Maga; Omi (Fresh Water); You Win Again.

Personnel

Chris Greene: saxophone; Damian Espinosa: piano; Marc Piane: bass; Steve Corley: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Chris Greene: percussion (6); Damian Espinosa: percussion (6); Marc Piane: percussion (6); Steve Corley: percussion (6).

Album information

Title: PlaySPACE 2: Play Harder | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Single Malt Recordings

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