Benny Green

Green will be backed up by the Sound Alliance jazz band directed by BYU-Idaho director Mark Watkins.

March 2, 2018
Writer: Don Sparhawk

REXBURG- Pianist Benny Green will headline the winter jazz festival concert Saturday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the Hart Auditorium at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg.

Green will be backed up by the Sound Alliance jazz band directed by BYU-Idaho director Mark Watkins.  

Green possesses the history of jazz at his fingertips. Combine mastery of keyboard technique with decades of real world experience playing with no one less than the most celebrated artists of the last half century, and it's no wonder Green has been hailed as perhaps the most exciting hard-swinging, hard-bop pianist to ever emerge from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. 

Green is the bearer of the torch and guardian of a legacy handed down to him, personally, by his musical mentors. His most recent recordings, "Live in Santa Cruz" (2015) and "Magic Beans" (2012) (Sunnyside) are shining examples of his brilliance. Since emerging under the tutelage of Betty Carter, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard and Ray Brown in the early 1980s, Green has become a highly regarded pianist and bandleader. His efforts to expand upon the language of the classical jazz canon have placed him not only among the best interpreters but also among the vanguard of musicians keeping jazz's evolution going. 

Born in New York in 1963, Green grew up in Berkeley, California, and began classical piano studies at the age of seven. Influenced by his father, a tenor saxophonist, his attention soon turned to Jazz: "I began trying to improvise on the piano, imitating the records I'd been hearing from my father's collection, which included a lot of Monk and Bird... it was a gradual process of teaching myself." 

He never looked back and never stopped learning as his blossoming talents, supported by mentors such as Walter Bishop, Jr. and others, plus his love for the music propelled him to the upper strata of jazz luminaries. 

His list of credits, accomplishments and accolades could literally fill a book. His recordings with the masters form a foundation of jazz education. Some notable highlights include: Beginning his touring life with Betty Carter for four years and realizing a lifelong dream of becoming a Jazz Messenger; In 1993 Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the City of Toronto's Glen Gould International Protégé Prize in Music culminating in "Oscar & Benny" (1998) recorded for Telarc.  

As the leader of his own groups, Benny's recording career began with two albums for the Dutch label Criss Cross: "Prelude" (1988) and "In This Direction" (1989). In 1990 Green started recording for Blue Note: "Lineage" (1990), "Greens" (1991), "Testifiyin'"(1992), "That's Right!" (1993), "The Place To Be" (1994), "Kaleidoscope" (1997) and "These Are Soulful Days" (1999). In 2000, his debut recording on Telarc Jazz entitled "Naturally" was released, which featured bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone. In 2001, "Green's Blues," a solo piano date and in 2003 "Jazz at the Bistro" (Telarc), a duo recording Malone, followed by "Bluebird" (2004) again pairing Green with Malone. A hiatus from recording produced Benny's 2011 trio date, Source (JLP). 

Tickets for the BYU-Idaho Center Stage concert are $12 for the general public and $6 for BYU-Idaho students. They are available online at http://www.byui.edu/tickets, at the Kimball Ticket Office or by calling 208-496-3170.