Jazz has always been a music of continuum, its secrets passed down across generations. Benny Green is a shining embodiment of this process: A pianist originally inspired (and eventually endorsed) by mid-century modernists like Oscar Peterson; An apprentice to two of the music's greatest mentors, Betty Carter and Art Blakey; A conservationist of the bebop idiom, and a joyful guardian of its lexicon.
Green is now 55, and has come a long way since the days when he was featured in a group called Jazz Futures, with fellow up-and-comers like bassist Christian McBride. He inhabits a midpoint in the music, not yet as an elder but certainly a mature artist, and an influence on more than a few players himself. In this episode of Jazz Night in America, we'll catch a recent set of his at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, featuring his spit-and-polish trio with drummer Kenny Washington and bassist David Wong.
We'll also be a fly on the wall as Green catches up with McBride — one of his oldest friends, and our show's multifaceted host. They'll reminisce about Green's youth in Berkeley, Calif., where his father, saxophonist Bert Green, instilled a reverence for jazz. They'll talk about what the younger Green learned from Betty Carter, and how he tactfully left her band to join Blakey's Jazz Messengers, turning heads right away. And they'll talk shop about Green's experience working with Ray Brown, who happens to be McBride's foundational bass hero, and another bridge from one jazz era to the next.