Friday, January 18, 2013

Benny Green Magic Beans Sunnyside 2013

Magic BeansI have to admit the last Benny Green release left me a bit cold with predictable covers and seemingly uninspired playing. Don't get me wrong, it was good but simply not up to the standard that Benny Green brings to the bandstand or recording studio. But an average Benny Green release is still light years ahead of most pianists best efforts.

On Feb. 26 2013, Green releases a recording of original material that is inspired, inventive and allows his creative energy to come full circle with Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums. Magic Beans is loaded with flavor, musical twists and turns one might not see coming as perhaps the best hard bop pianist since his days with the Blakey band returns with a vengeance. It was in 2012 that a potential "writers block" seemed to lift and suddenly Green found himself reminding listeners that while his skills at the piano bench are beyond reproach, his compositional skills are parallel with some of the very best. A younger Chick Corea? Maybe...

This personal journey kicks off with "Benny's Crib", inspired by the classic sound of the Blue Note label trumpet-saxophone quintets. Green puts the listener in a sonic time machine since that Blue Note sound has long taken refugee in the jazz witness protection program. An incredibly intriguing piece is "Jackie McLean" written for the saxophone giant and with a deep rooted Latin feel that you hear with your hips and feel with your feet. Green taps into his versatility with "Vanished" which is some what of a deconstructed piece that while lyrically and harmonically driven utilizes the zen like approach of less is more to its fullest.

Benny Green crushes this release which may be his best in well over a decade. The variety of swing combined with the diversity of style puts this release at the top of pack for 2013. 4 out of 5 stars with relative ease.

Tracks: Benny's Crib; Kenny Drew; Flying Saucer; Jackie McClean; Vanished; Harold Land; Magic Beans; Paraphrase; La Portugesa; Further Away.

Personnel: Benny Green: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Kenny Washington: drums.