Gifts and Givers

Jimmy Greene

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Gifts and Givers Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Saxophonist Jimmy Greene's fifth effort as a leader sees him in tandem with fellow tenor man Marcus Strickland, but this is not a tenor battle à la Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. A mainstream neo-bop modernist, Greene presents seven selections that display his broad range of acumen, as a player, composer, and rearranger. Strickland, a slightly younger lion than Greene and a leader in his own right, easily keeps pace with Greene, and in a limited fashion matches the dynamics without sublimating his own voice. The choice of music is quite advanced, including John Coltrane's "26-2," James Black's "Magnolia Triangle," and Sonny Stitt's "Eternal Triangle." The Coltrane piece is a jam, with harmonic off-minor changes requiring teamwork from the front line and strong support from the rhythm section, provided in spades by rising star pianist Danny Grissett and the excellent drummer Eric Harland. Black's composition, plucked from the Yusef Lateef book, is as hip as it comes in 5/4 time, and approaching standard status. The Stitt bop evergreen is played with a definite twist, as a five-note vamp buoys the band to take off while playing the melody. You have to hear these tunes to appreciate their depth of perception and Greene's personalized voicings -- they're keepers. The remainder of the CD features a recapitulated tribute to Jackie McLean, "Mr. McLean," first found on Greene's debut CD; a revamped and extended version of Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa," which is more Brazilian and sensual than the original; and Harry Connick, Jr.'s sweet, elongated "Greene Blues," the original version recorded for Connick's Chanson du Vieux Carre CD, but never released. Other aspects of these recordings bearing note are the Fender Rhodes sound of Grissett on select cuts, and electric guitarist Mike Moreno's dark, twitchy, pungent guitar heard throughout. Moreno, Grissett, and pianist Robert Glasper are all from Houston, and moving up quickly on the jazz food chain. Greene has put out a small discography, nothing yet definitive, but this is very close to being his best so far.

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