Benny Green at the KPLU Seattle Studios.
Benny Green at the KPLU Seattle Studios. Justin Steyer/KPLU
When pianist Benny Green agreed to come to KPLU's Seattle studios for a solo piano performance, he was on tour with his band paying tribute to the music of Thelonious Monk. So it seemed logical to have his studio session consist of Monk compositions. That was the plan, anyway.
But just before the session was to begin, in a conversation with interviewer Abe Beeson, Green was surprised and saddened to learn that jazz pianist George Shearing had died the day before. Beeson asked Green if he'd like to play a Shearing song in tribute to the jazz master. Green agreed, even though he'd never actually performed a Shearing composition.
So, in addition to two wonderful interpretations of Monk pieces, we were treated to Green's first performance, ever, of Shearing's classic "Lullaby of Birdland." To attempt something like that in a live broadcast was a fearless gesture of compassion and respect, and Green pulled it off beautifully. Somewhere, Shearing and Monk were smiling — as were we.