Weekend Listening Tip: Green And Smulyan

The tip comes from Jim Wilke in Seattle, a suburb of Port Townsend.

Sunday, September 2nd on Jazz Northwest from 88.5 KPLU, the Benny Green Trio with special guest Gary Smulyan on baritone saxophone is heard in concert at Centrum’s Jazz Port Townsend. The concert was recorded in McCurdy Pavilion at Fort Worden on July 28, and consists of original music by Benny Green.

Benny Green has been a favorite at Jazz Port Townsend for years. He has been an active professional pianist since the 80s when he began his career with Betty Carter, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Freddie Hubbard. He has since made 15 albums as a leader himself. He previews some new music in this concert including several pieces titled with the names of Bop masters Jackie McLean, Harold Land and Sonny Clark, reflecting his interest and study of the originators of this music. Joining him in this trio are Ben Wolfe on bass and Rodney Green on drums.

Also joining the Benny Green Trio on three selections is the multi-award winning baritone saxophonist Gary Smulyan, a leader in his own right and a first call baritone saxophonist on the New York scene. Gary Smulyan has played with Woody Herman, the Mel Lewis Orchestra under Bob Brookmeyer, The Mingus Epitaph band, and Smithsonian Masterworks Orchestra among others. Both Benny Green and Gary Smulyan were on the faculty of the week-long jazz workshop that precedes the Jazz Port Townsend Festival each year.

Jazz Northwest is recorded and produced by Jim Wilke, exclusively for 88.5 KPLU. The program airs Sundays at 1 PM PDT. It streams simultaneously to the internet on KPLU and is also available as a podcast at kplu.org following the airdate.

(Photos by Jim Levitt)

Jim Wilke tells me that his next broadcast concerts recorded at Port Townsend will be by pianists Dena DeRose on September 16 and Tamir Hendelman on September 30, both with bassist Martin Wind and drummer Matt Wilson. Heavy duty piano roster at PT this year.

For a Rifftides review of a Benny Green Trio concert a few days later and thousands of miles away, click here.

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  1. Jim Brown says

    I’ve enjoyed multiple live tastes of Benny Green, most recently a couple of gigs in a trio with “the Washingtons” — Peter and Kenny — and Smulyan in a great Mulligan/Chet tribute set that he played with trumpeter Ron Stout. Those experiences reinforced my fandom of all the participants, none of whom were new to me. I’d heard a lot of Benny with bands that Joe Segal booked into the Jazz Showcase, Ron Stout with several LA bands, the Washingtons with everyone, and Smulyan with Woody.

    I especially enjoy Benny’s playing and his writing, which ranges from the blues, to music with Blakey’s energy, to Monk, to some very lyrical things. Anyone who has concerns that jazz is diminished with the passing of older masters need only listen to these artists and others like Anat Cohen and Regina Carter to realize that the music is in good hands. I’ll go out of my way to hear any of them.

  2. Jon Foley says

    Benny Green is one of the most underrated pianists playing today. I got to hear him several times in Boston with Ray Brown’s best trio – the one with Brown, Green and Jeff Hamilton. Besides the outstanding music, another enjoyable aspect of the performances was watching Green enjoy Ray Brown’s solos.

    Ray sometimes liked to play a long unaccompanied solo in the middle of a tune. After Benny Green finished his solo, he would turn around 180 degrees on the piano bench (the piano was set up on the right side of the stage), lean in toward Ray with his head about 3 feet from Ray’s bass, and just listen, raptly, with a big smile on his face – just “going to school” on the great Ray Brown. That was one hell of a group!

    Another thing that I love about Benny Green is that he’s not ashamed of playing real jazz (unlike so many younger players these days) – no hiphop influences, no world music, just real, swinging, classic jazz. How refreshing!