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Benny Green


MAJUSCULE

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On friday, october 9th 2009, I had the chance to witness a totally ridiculous show at the Yardbird Suite in Edmonton, Alberta.

 

I saw Benny Green in a duo format with John Stowell on guitar.

 

I got there early and got the best seat in the house: front-row, directly in front of the right corner of the piano. I could see everything both guys played.

 

They played two sets with the entire show lasting about two hours.

 

As Benny said: (loose quotation) "Playing in a duo format enables us to listen much more and have much more of a conversation."

 

They commended each other several times throughout the night, but I think the guy who had it best was sitting behind me. The whole night for him was just "Jesus..."

 

They played a nice mix of tunes; some standards, some Coltrane, some Bird, some originals and some Jobim. Not the usual Jobi,, though. As Stowell said: "One of my biggest pet peeves with american musicians is they play the same five Jobim songs over and over again. Not that I don't like them, they're very nice songs! But he composed four hundred of them. So here is one of the other three-hundred and ninety-five..."

 

These guys have great feel for each otherand incredible natural ability, they pulled off pretty much everything they tried with barely any rehearsal time.

 

Benny's playing was just outstanding. This guy has done his surrounding chord tones, let me tell you. He was just ripping up and down three quarters of the keyboard, improvising sixteenth-note lines with boths hands at the same time, all of it really musically. I was just in awe.

 

But he isn't all speed. He had some beautiful slower passages, especially in his solo piece, I'll Never Stop Loving You. He was playing counterpoints to guitar melodies whether they were during solos or during the heads.

 

To top it off, he's a hilarious guy, great personality.

 

Anyways, I came away from it quite satisfied and full of great music! If you get the chance to see him, don't hesitate!

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It seems an unusual match Benny Green with guitarist John Stowell. Stowell has an esoteric style of playing, while Green is usually straight ahead.

 

Mark Levine has said that Benny Green is the greatest jazz pianist in the world. Maybe that's partly why he can blend well with Stowell.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

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I first heard Benny Green when he was playing with the Ray Brown trio. Definetly one of the best - particularly, I think, at building his solos - great use of fast split octaves and block chords and dynamics. He also plays very beautifully on ballads. Earlier this year (maybe late last year) he played in town with Christian MCBride and Greg Hutchinson in a tribute to Ray Brown - great show.
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