Benny Green. i

Benny Green. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist
Benny Green.

Benny Green.

Courtesy of the artist

JazzSet with Dee Dee Bridgewater

Benny Green Trio On JazzSetWBGO

Benny Green Trio On JazzSet
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/149627190/163919557" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

The pioneering pianist Thelonious Monk left behind a treasure trove of compositions. Onstage at the KC Jazz Club at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., a current jazz treasure is here to play some of the best. Benny Green is on piano with Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums. Baritone sax man Gary Smulyan joins the festivities a little later on Monk's Dream: Fifty Years Fresh.

Known as "The High Priest of Bebop" — so named by Lorraine Lion of the Blue Note label, now Lorraine Gordon of the Village Vanguard, as reported in Robin D.G. Kelley's biography, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original — Monk helped create the revolutionary style in late-night jam sessions at clubs like Minton's Playhouse in Harlem. His compositions were cornerstones of the new sound and his influence was pervasive, but the man remained relatively obscure until he signed with Columbia Records in 1962 and recorded Monk's Dream, his biggest-selling album. In 1964, Monk found himself on the cover of Time magazine.

Not long after, Bert Green, a tenor saxophonist and sculptor, played the title tune for his son in the garage of their family home in Berkeley, Calif. It was the first music Benny Green ever heard, and Monk became the younger Green's primary musical influence.

Benny Green turned out to be a prodigy on piano, studying classical music from age 7 and jazz in Berkeley High School's widely respected program. In 1982, he moved to New York City, proving and improving himself in the Betty Carter Trio, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and, in the mid 1990s, the Ray Brown Trio. In 1994, selected by Oscar Peterson, Green won the Glenn Gould Protégé Prize.

Green uses his whole body to get the sound he wants out of the piano and from Monk's music — the rhythmic energy, the quirky yet logical melodies, the humor. Peter Washington's strong bass playing and Kenny Washington's dynamics and perfectly even snare rolls complement Gary Smulyan's stamina and musicality on the big horn. Smulyan is the winner of the annual DownBeat and JazzTimes polls, as well as the Jazz Journalists Association Baritone Saxophonist of the Year, every year. At a recent Detroit Jazz Festival, Smulyan was blowing hard on the Waterfront Stage when a riverboat passed by. The whistle blew, and he matched it in pitch and force — a moment we captured on JazzSet.

Set List
  • "Monk's Dream"
  • "Thelonious"
  • "Jackie-ing"
  • "Trinkle Tinkle"
  • "Let's Call This"
  • "Five Spot Blues"
  • "We See"
  • "Nutty"

All selections by Thelonious Monk.

Credits

Recording by Greg Hartman and Christian Amonson. Surround Sound mix by Duke Markos.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Jazz

Dena DeRose. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Dena DeRose On Piano Jazz

In a 2001 session, the singer and pianist joined host Marian McPartland for a program of standards.

Dena DeRose On Piano Jazz
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/479740933/479741803" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Michael Ochs Archives/Stringer/Getty Images

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

A Tribute To Artie Shaw On Piano Jazz

Historian and cornetist Dick Sudhalter lends perspective on the great clarinetist and bandleader.

A Tribute To Artie Shaw On Piano Jazz
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/478858076/478859776" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Tania Maria. Jean-Baptiste Poulain/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Jean-Baptiste Poulain/Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Tania Maria On Piano Jazz

The Brazilian pianist and singer mixes frenetic originals with Antônio Carlos Jobim interpretations.

Tania Maria On Piano Jazz
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/477960098/477961996" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Catherine Russell. Marv Goldschmitt/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Marv Goldschmitt/Courtesy of the artist

Jazz Night In America

Catherine Russell: Sunny Side Of The Street

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

The singer assembles a vocal trio to take on a book of music she once sang with her mother.

Catherine Russell: Sunny Side Of The Street
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/477822438/477824662" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Jim Ferguson. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Jim Ferguson On Piano Jazz

The singing bassist presents original songs and standards in a session from 2001.

Jim Ferguson On Piano Jazz
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/477064541/477065827" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Rose Murphy. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz

Rose Murphy On Piano Jazz

Hear the singer and pianist perform "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" in a 1988 session.

Rose Murphy In The Studio
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/476137289/476145176" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Carlos Henriquez in The Bronx. Lawrence Sumulong for Jazz at Lincoln Center hide caption

toggle caption Lawrence Sumulong for Jazz at Lincoln Center

Jazz Night In America

Carlos Henriquez: The Bronx Pyramid

WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center

The bassist spends a lot of time in Manhattan for Jazz at Lincoln Center, but his roots are uptown.

Carlos Henriquez: The Bronx Pyramid
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/476077535/476086613" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top