Thank you for a great show! November 11, 2016
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 who admired Lester Young, his attention soon turned to 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”. He also was fortunate to matriculate in the Berkeley school system where jazz was part of the curriculum from kindergarten through Berkeley High School’s nationally renowned jazz program, due much to the ideas and efforts of Dr. Herb Wong, PAJA’s co-founder and then the principal of Washington School, the experimental elementary school on the UC Berkeley campus, and culminating in Benny’s selection as the piano chair in the Monterey Jazz Festival’s High School All-Stars. Benny Green possesses the history of jazz at his fingertips, and his love for the music propelled him to the upper strata of jazz luminaries. Celebrating a banner year in 1993, Benny began his touring life with Betty Carter, and jazz piano master Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the City of Toronto’s Glen Gould International Protege Prize in Music. After four years Benny realized a lifelong dream of joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and it’s no wonder he has been hailed as perhaps the most exciting hard-swinging, hard-bop pianist to ever emerge from that premiere group often identified as “the school of Blakey”. Benny never looked back and never stopped learning as his talents blossomed. Combining mastery of keyboard technique with decades of real world experience playing, Benny is recognized as one of the most illustrious artists of the last half century.
Benny Green, unconditionally, is the bearer of the torch and guardian of a legacy handed down to him, personally, by his musical mentors. His most recent recordings, Live in Santa Cruz (2015) and Magic Beans (2012) (Sunnyside) are shining examples of his brilliance. Since emerging under the tutelage of Betty Carter, Art Blakey, Oscar Peterson, Walter Davis, Walter Bishop, Jr., Freddie Hubbard and Ray Brown in the early 1980s, Benny Green has become a highly regarded pianist and bandleader. Appearing on well over one hundred recordings, with legacy artists such as: Betty Carter (including Grammy award winner Look What I Got), Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Watson, Milt Jackson, Diana Krall, and he is particularly featured in 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), to fresh faces like Japan’s young drum virtuouso, Tiger Onitsuka. Benny is a leader of his own groups and his recording career began with two albums in 1988 and 1990 Green started recording for Blue Note. His debut recording on Telarc Jazz entitled Naturally was released, which featured bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone followed by Green’s Blues, a solo piano date and Jazz at the Bistro and Bluebird, a duo recording with Malone. Benny Green also is an eminent educator, willing to give back to the next generation. In the Bay Area he has taught at the Stanford Jazz Workshop, and currently he is on the faculty at the University of Michigan. As Herb Wong, PAJA co-founder and concert producer, used to say, “I promise this will be a swing’in affair! Dig it!” Harvey Mittler, Event Chair