Today In Jazz

Happy Birthday Benny Green!

April 16

Trombonist Bennie Green is born in Chicago in 1923. Though born too soon to participate in its Golden Age, Green was in some ways a throwback to the Swing Era. He wasn’t as interested in virtuosity as end and not means, and he preferred a more traditional trombone sound than, say, J.J. Johnson. Green’s first major gig was with the Earl Hines Orchestra from 1942 to 1948 (with a couple of years off to fight Hitler). He then hooked up with tenor saxophonist Charlie Ventura’s band, followed by a return to Hines’s now-trimmed-down ensemble, from 1951 to 1953. After that, for the rest of his too-abbreviated career (and life; he died in 1977, age 54), Green tended to lead his own groups. He certainly recorded much as a leader, with some occasional cooperative dates with such exceptional players as fluglehornist Art Farmer and tenor saxophonist Sonny Stitt. As a sideman, Green enhanced nearly every session, whether front and center or withdrawing into the shadows. Listen to Green’s opening extended solo on the standard “Just Friends,” from the 1958 LP Back on the Scene (with Charlie Rouse, soon to be Thelonious Monk’s tenor sax man of choice), here:

Pianist Earl Hines records his solo piano LP …Plays Cole Porter, 1974. Listen to “Fatha” assaying “You Do Something to Me,” here:

A totally different breed of pianist, Alice Coltrane, records the LP Transfiguration, in 1978. Listen to the title tune, here: