Born: April 4, 1963 Primary Instrument: Piano
Born in New York in 1963, Benny Green grew up in Berkeley, California, and began classical piano studies at the age of seven. Influenced by his father, a tenor saxophonist, his attention soon turned into Jazz: I began trying to improvise on the piano, imitating the records I'd been hearing from my father's collection, which included a lot of Monk and Bird… it was a gradual process of teaching myself. Benny played in school bands before hooking up with Jazz singer Fay Carroll: That was good training for me in terms of accompaniment and learning about the blues, and she also gave me a chance to play trio, opening for her every night.
As a teenager he worked with Eddie Henderson, and got some big band experience with a 12-piece group led by Chuck Israels. After his graduation, Benny freelanced around the bay area for a year, and then moved to New York in the spring of 1982. Back in the Big Apple, he met veteran pianist Walter Bishop Jr.: I began studying with him and he helped point me in the direction of developing my own sound, and he also encouraged me to check out and study the whole scope of Jazz piano history, so I could get a sense of how I was to fit in.
After a short stint with Bobby Watson, Green worked with Betty Carter between 1983 and 1987. In 1987, he joined Art Blakey's band. He remained a Jazz Messenger through late 1989, at which point he began working with Freddie Hubbard's quintet.
In 1993, Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the City of Toronto's Glen Gould International Protégé Prize in Music. That year, Green replaced Gene Harris in Ray Brown's Trio, working with the veteran bass player until 1997. From 1997 on, Benny resumed his freelance career, led his own trios, and concentrated on his solo piano performances.
His recording career, which includes over one hundred sessions, is very impressive: amongst many others, he has recorded as a sideman with Betty Carter (including Grammy-Award winner Look What I Got), Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Watson, Milt Jackson, Diana Krall, Ray Brown's trio series of CD's for Telarc: Bass Face (1993), Don't Get Sassy (1994), Some of My Best Friends … (1994), Seven Steps to Heaven (1995), Super Bass (1996) and Live at Sculler's (1996).
As a leader of his own groups, Benny's recording career began with two albums for the Dutch label Criss Cross: Prelude (1988) and In This Direction (1989). In 1990, Green started recording for Blue Note, releasing Lineage (1990), Greens (1991), Testifiyin' (1992), That's Right! (1993), The Place To Be (1994), Kaleidoscope (1997) and These Are Soulful Days (1999). He has also recorded for Toshiba - Funky (1997) -and for Telarc with Oscar Peterson - Oscar & Benny (1997).
In 2000, his debut recording on Telarc Jazz, Naturally was released, which featured bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone (who also appeared on Kaleidoscope), musicians who have both inspired and challenged him to explore new territory. With the 2002 release of Green's Blues, Benny returned to his roots and updated the tradition with an exciting solo collection of jazz standards by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner and George Gershwin, among others, with his highly personal style.
A perpetual student of the history of Jazz piano, Benny Green mentions Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Hank Jones, Ahmad Jamal, Phineas Newborn, Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson as some of his main influences. His approach to Jazz can be resumed in his own words: … for myself and a lot of musicians I admire, the main focus is to just swing and have fun, and share those feelings with the audience … and if I'm able to convey that, then I feel like I'm doing something positive.
The 2003 release on Telarc, Jazz at the Bistro, a live event, marked the first of two duo recordings with guitarist Russell Malone, dedicated to the memory of the late jazz bassist Ray Brown. The second piano/guitar duo recording with Russell Malone is Bluebird (2004).
Source: Contributing Editor: Kandie Le Britain Webster
Until I can do this page justice ... click on Benny Green's "Website" on the profile page -- www.bennygreenmusic.com -- and check out the extensive discography page. -- KW
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