Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Listening to Prestige Part 168: Bennie Green

Let's start with the music. Bennie Green and Art Farmer have an affinity for each other that keeps on giving.

I talked about sentimentality in my last post, and defended its place in art, but you can also ignore it altogether. Green and Farmer take "My Blue Heaven" at a bebopper's pace, using the melody as a springboard for great improvisation, pretty much forgetting about Molly and me and the baby, although there's a real sweetness to Farmer's restatement of the melody at the end. And although there aren't any blues in that cozy place with the fireplace, these guys find room for them in their improv.

"Cliff Dweller " is a composition by piano player Cliff Smalls, and it kicks off with some very
complex but driving interplay between Smalls, Addison Farmer and Philly Joe Jones. Smalls worked often with Bennie Green, and there may have been an extra affinity there because Smalls was also a trombonist. Further, they shared a taste for the accessibility of rhythm and blues -- Smalls would go on to be the bandleader for Clyde McPhatter, Smokey Robinson, and Brook Benton.

"Let's Stretch" seems to come with no composer credit, so we'll take it as a collectively improvised Five O'clock Blues, and stretch they do, for a well-spent ten-plus minutes.

They finish the set with a nice moody version of "Gone With the Wind."
Now, moving on to the digression.'s online encyclopedia gives this biographical note:

Bernard Green was born on April 16, 1923 in Chicago, to a family of musicians. His older brother Elbert had played with trumpeter Roy Eldridge in the local Chicago scene, and both attended DuSable High School, a hotspot for music education at the time. It was under the direction of his music teacher at DuSable where Bennie began to study trombone. 

At a time when music education is disappearing from our test-obsessed schools, it's good to stop and remember how important it was to the American Century in music, our great contribution to world culture. People talk about musicians, particularly soul musicians, and how they learned their music in church, but there were far more who learned in school.

And what about DuSable High? Who started their music careers there?

Holy smoke.

Here's a list from Wikipedia:

  • Gene Ammons — pioneering jazz tenor saxophone player.
  • Ronnie Boykins — jazz bassist, most noted for his work with Sun Ra.
  • Sonny Cohn — jazz trumpet player, perhaps best known for his 24 years playing with Count Basie.
  • Nat King Cole — pianist and crooner, predominantly of pop and jazz works (Unforgettable).
  • Jerome Cooper — jazz musician who specialized in percussion.
  • Don Cornelius — television show host and producer, best known as the creator and host of Soul Train. 
  • Richard Davis — bassist and professor of music at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
  • Dorothy Donegan — jazz pianist.
  • Von Freeman — jazz tenor saxophonist.
  • John Gilmore — clarinet and saxophone player, best known for his time with the Sun Ra Arkestra, a group he briefly led after Sun Ra's death.
  • Johnny Griffin — bebop and hard bop tenor saxophone player.
  • Eddie Harris — jazz musician best known for playing tenor saxophone and for introducing the electrically amplified saxophone.
  • Johnny Hartman — jazz singer (Lush Life), best known for his work with John Coltrane.
  • Fred Hopkins — jazz bassist.
  • Joseph Jarman — jazz composer, percussionist, clarinetist, and saxophonist.
  • Ella Jenkins — Grammy Award–winning musician and singer educations  best known for her work in folk music and children's music.
  • LeRoy Jenkins — violinist who worked mostly in free jazz.
  • Clifford Jordan — jazz saxophonist.
  • Walter Perkins — jazz percussionist.
  • Julian Priester — jazz trombone player.
  • Wilbur Ware — hard bebop bassist.
  • Dinah Washington — Grammy award–winning jazz singer.

And that's not even all. Soul singers like Joann Garrett. Doowop groups like the Esquires. Other groups like the El Dorados and the Danderliers played talent shows there.

Let's give a tribute to the men and women who taught at Dusable, and contributed so much to our culture.

This  session was released on LP as Bennie Green with Art Farmer.

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