Heir apparent to Oscar Peterson, Benny Green has proven his staying power as a bop-flavored pianist, having paid his dues with Betty Carter, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey and Ray Brown. Now just 36, his 10th album as a leader marks his debut for Telarc and he has chosen sidemen-guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Christian McBride-carefully. Green has also chosen to relax. Naturally is a laid-back collection of elegant as opposed to hard-edged jazz. Plenty of "Oscar"-winning block chords, Fats Waller-style stride, an occasional flurry of bop lines and generous stretch-out room for his colleagues.
The Peterson pedigree is graciously expressed on "Love You Madly," with its moving tenths, and on "Learnin' the Blues," thanks to its serpentine bass line. Tributes to other pianists are included: "Beg Your Parlan," for Horace Parlan; and "Grooveyard," a poignant line by Carl Perkins.
"Lester Left Town" is a curious choice: it is not essentially pianistic. When Wayne Shorter conceived that tune, he was thinking horns. Yet in Green's hands it manages to grace the keyboard. As the album title suggests, he does everything naturally.