Saturday, November 08, 2014

Listening to Prestige Records Part 50: Bennie Greene

Bennie Green could play anything, and he pretty much proves it on this set of six songs (Prestige didn't release "Jumpin' Journey").

Green got his start with traditional jazz master Earl Hines, worked with moderns like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and avant-gardists like Randy Weston, and he could play rhythm and blues. For this session, he teamed up with sidemen who were as versatile as he was in Davis and Nicholas, and they proceeded to prove it by putting together a set in which they never played the same thing twice.

""Green Junction" is big band swing (or it's rooted there -- nothing on this session quite fits any pigeonhole). "Flowing River" sounds more like something that might have been recorded by George Winston on Windham Hill than like the gutbucket blues it is, with the dirty blues sound that only a trombone can deliver. "Whirl-a-Licks" is supercharged bebop, with some R&B honking thrown in for good measure. "Bennie's Pennies" is a standard, the only one of the day, with a bebop treatment. "Tenor Sax Shuffle"is a honk-a-thon with two classic honkers, and "Sugar Syrup" could be rhythm and blues if the rhythm section were a little more predictable, but it's not. What else could you possibly want?

Teddy Brannon is the new name here for me, and his blues lick sets the tone for "Flowing River." He played up and down 52nd Street, recorded with a number of jazz greats, accompanied  Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, Billie Holiday, and his cousin Babs Gonzales,and played on a lot of doowop records. My kinda guy.

What else is happening on the jazz scene in October of 1951? We haven't checked in with the New Yorker in a while, and they've added a couple more trad jazz clubs to Condon's and Jimmy Ryan's in their "Mostly for Music" listings, while still mostly ignoring the modern clubs. Birdland, in a somewhat rare move, is featuring Bird -- Charlie Parker, trading off with Terry Gibbs. And they list The Embers, where "some of the best music on the North American continent is being turned loose by the prankish Red Norvo Trio, which has Tal Farlow on guitar." Bud Freeman is scheduled to follow Norvo, and then Erroll Garner's trio with Shadow Wilson.

I'm wondering if this session was set up with an eye toward different markets. I'm guessing not -- Weinstock doesn't seem to have been that commercially focused. But the 78s seem to be put together with a sense of what goes with what --  "Tenor Sax Shuffle" and "Sugar Syrup" on one 78, the two beboppers, "Whirl-a-Licks" and  "Bennie's Pennies" on another, the two more traditional sounds on a third. The EP leaves off  "Tenor Sax Shuffle" and "Sugar Syrup." and the same grouping goes onto the 10-inch LP Modern Jazz Trombones, Vol. 2, with cuts by Green and J. J. Johnson.

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