November 2001

Benny Green - Green's Blues
Telarc CD-83539
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ***

[Reviewed on CD]There is nothing in jazz quite so naked as the solo pianist. There is nowhere to hide, no one to comp behind, no help whatsoever. It’s just the player, the piano, and the audience. So a pianist had better have something to say, and the talent and style to say it in a manner that will capture the ears of his or her listeners. Whatever the musician's chosen style, be it the virtuosity of Art Tatum, the quiet classicism of Bill Evans, or the wrong-note-at-the-right-time precision of Thelonious Monk, it had better come across to the public, or he’ll go nowhere fast.

Benny Green’s challenge with his latest Telarc release, Green’s Blues, is to find that piece of turf he can stake out as his own. It’s a formidable task, but one that Green should be up to after his recent run of fine trio albums which has established him as one of today’s hot, young (well, relatively speaking) jazz pianists. And while he has demonstrated that he has the talent, he now needs to show that he has something to say.

Does he succeed? That, my friends, will be up to you to decide. To these ears, Green holds out much promise. I hear much of the past in the pits of Green’s Blues -- a little Tatum here, some Phineas Newborn, Jr. there (as on "Someone To Watch Over Me"), a touch of Monk (in the opening of "You Make Me Feel So Young"), and the subtlety of Bill Evans (on "Misty"). It all adds up to an homage to Green’s inspirations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always add up to Benny Green. And that may be his biggest problem here: many times you find yourself listening to those influences, and not to Green himself.

At least the sound won’t get in the way of your enjoyment. Telarc, once again using Sony’s DSD process, has recorded Green’s Hamburg Steinway "D" 0290 piano to sound just as it would if he were playing it in your listening room. Starting from your left speaker and running to just inside your right, the piano is spread out across the soundstage as a realistic, full-sized instrument. Telarc has captured the true percussive nature of felt hammers striking steel strings (not to mention fleshy fingers banging on ivory keys). It’s an up close sound, lacking only the air surrounding the piano to give it that live feel.

As the album's title suggests, this disc is chock-full of blues and blues interpretations of old standards. There is nothing new here, just Green’s takes on old popular songs. Whether or not you take a fancy to it is up to you. But don’t pass it up on principle, or you’ll miss out on some mighty fine music and a wonderful recording.