An in-demand pianist and educator with a deep understanding of the jazz tradition, Benny Green built upon his early years as a neo-bop prodigy, maturing into a nuanced and sophisticated virtuoso.
Influenced early on by the classic bebop style of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell, Green quickly developed into a formidable player, believably combining the styles of such cornerstone pianists as Bobby Timmons, Wynton Kelly, Gene Harris, and Oscar Peterson. Although he is a gifted technician capable of wondrous fast octave runs, he has a supremely balanced approach, able to command an audience's attention on his own or as a sympathetic accompanist.
Born in New York City in 1963, Green grew up in Berkeley, California where his sculptor/saxophonist father, Bert Green, first introduced him to jazz. From age seven, he studied jazz and classical piano and later honed his skills in the respected jazz program at Berkeley High School. By his teens, he was splitting his time between his school work and regularly gigs at San Francisco's Yoshi's jazz club where he had the opportunity to play with such heavy hitters as Joe Henderson and Woody Shaw. After high school, he moved to New York City where paid his dues playing with first with vocalist Betty Carter (1983-1987) and then joining Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1987-1989), the latter of which helped raise his profile considerably. Other important associations followed, including stints with Freddie Hubbard and the Ray Brown Trio alongside bassist Christian McBride and drummer Carl Allen. All during his early career, Green continued to gig with his own groups, often featuring bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington. In 1988, he made his solo debut on Criss Cross with Prelude, a hard bop-influenced quintet featuring trumpeter Terence Blanchard and saxophonist Javon Jackson. He quickly followed up with the trio date In This Direction, featuring bassist Buster Williams and drummer Lewis Nash.
During the '90s, Green's star continued to rise as he signed with Blue Note Records and spent the next decade with the label delivering such highly regarded albums as 1990's Lineage, 1993's That's Right!, and 1997's Kaleidoscope. He also paired with his longtime idol, Oscar Peterson, for 1998's Oscar and Benny on Telarc. These albums found him working through his influences, embracing urbane swing and stride styles, jazz standards, '60s modalism, and the muscular hard bop of Blakey and Horace Silver. He rounded out his association with Blue Note by celebrating the label's 60th anniversary on These Are Soulful Days, in which picked some of his favorite tunes from the label's catalog, including selections by Lee Morgan, Dexter Gordon, and Joe Henderson.
Green's output slowed somewhat over the next few years as he continued to tour and also began teaching and holding workshops for jazz students. During this period, he delivered a handful of well-curated efforts for Telarc including 2000's Naturally, 2001's Green's Blues, and 2004's Bluebird, with oft-collaborator guitarist Russell Malone. In 2011, he reunited with longtime cohorts Peter Washington and Kenny Washington for Source. Both Washington's were also on board for 2013's Magic Beans, which found Green delivering his first album of all-original material. In 2017, he released the concert album Happiness! Live at Kuumbwa. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi