Benny Green – Benny’s Crib (2020)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 39:44 minutes | 695 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Sunnyside
Benny Green’s notes on his upcoming album, Benny’s Crib: My primary instrument will always be the piano, but as a child of the 1970s, I grew up in an era in which the sound of an electric piano was more prevalent in the popular music of the day than was the acoustic instrument. The sound of the Fender Rhodes and the Wurlitzer were heard regularly on the radio and records played at parties while I a kid.
I’ve long wanted to integrate the Rhodes into my musical palette as a bandleader and my 2018 Sunnyside release, Then and Now, my twentieth record as a leader, was the first time that I recorded with the instrument on an album of my own. I greatly enjoyed the kind of sonic liberation I found in freely combining and blending the Rhodes with the acoustic piano for a few tracks.
I love the warm, dark saturated overtones of the Rhodes. It is a beautiful sound and, like an acoustic piano, the way its overtones spill into one-another gives the instrument a truly orchestral quality. Although the Rhodes has bell-like characteristics in some ways similar to a vibraharp, it allows a lusciously orchestral dimensional expanse and substantiality.
I planned Benny’s Crib to be a continuation of the ensemble cast I’d presented on Then and Now, which is my working trio augmented by three guest performers, flautist Anne Drummond, vocalist Veronica Swift and percussionist Josh Jones for a few of the selections, as a further extensions of my basic instrumental palette of piano, bass and drums. With Anne’s flutes and Veronica’s voice, I like to “stack” or “layer” a virtual “few” of them to make chords and counterpoint, sometimes doubling the clusters I play on the piano with my right hand.
Acclaimed for his deep grasp of the acoustic jazz tradition, pianist Benny Green expands his approach exploring the warm sound of the Rhodes electric piano on 2020’s Benny’s Crib. Green’s move from piano to Rhodes is not without precedent in jazz and certainly evokes the work of legendary players like Bill Evans, Cedar Walton, Tommy Flanagan, and Herbie Hancock, who each adopted the Rhodes at some point in their careers. The album follows his superb 2018 effort Then and Now, and features nearly the same lineup, with bassist David Wong, flutist Anne Drummond, conga player Josh Jones, and vocalist Veronica Swift returning. The sole change is drummer Aaron Kimmel, who ably replaces the estimable Kenny Washington. The pianist’s bandmates aren’t the only similarity to his previous work, as both the title track and “Harold Land” are Green originals carried over from past albums. In fact, “Harold Land,” an urbane midtempo swinger dedicated to the late tenor saxophonist, was recorded by Drummond and Green for the flute player’s 2013 album Revolving. Similarly, “Benny’s Crib” is reworked from Then and Now, with Swift offering a buoyant reading of the bop-informed melody. Equally compelling are cuts like Green’s languid take on Walter Bishop, Jr.’s “Coral Keys,” his breezy Latin take on Kenny Barron’s “Seascape,” and his ebulliently hard-swinging version of Cedar Walton’s “Something in Common.” We also get a handful of intimate and lushly textured solo keyboard performances by Green, including a sweetly lulling version of Dexter Gordon’s “Tivoli,” the poignantly romantic “Did We Try,” and a soulful take on his own “My Girl Bill.” Green has always balanced harmonic sophistication with deeply swinging grooves, and his move to the Rhodes keyboard on Benny’s Crib only reinforces these traits. – Matt Collar
1. Benny Green – Tivoli
2. Benny Green – Central Park South
3. Benny Green – Coral Keys
4. Benny Green – My Girl Bill
5. Benny Green – Harold Land
6. Benny Green – Did We Try
7. Benny Green – Seascape
8. Benny Green – My One and Only Love
9. Benny Green – Something in Common
10. Benny Green – For Tomorrow
11. Benny Green – Benny’s Crib