Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene was narrowly edged out of the top prize at the Thelonious Monk Competition in ’97 despite musical dexterity and a large sound befitting the Hartford native’s big frame. Evidence of Greene’s talents emerged on his recorded debut with Claudio Roditi, Double Standards, and via stints with the likes of Kenny Barron, Eddie Henderson and TanaReid, as well as in the trenches at Smalls and other New York hang-outs. Confirmation of further skills was offered via Greene’s participation in The New Jazz Composers Octet gem First Steps Into Reality, a cryptic appellation considering the band’s motherlode of up-and-comers.
Now comes Brand New World, Jimmy Greene’s fresh entree on the RCA Victor label. Sparkling in its promise, subtle in its gifts, Brand New World delivers a tasty platter served up by trumpeter Darren Barrett, trombonist Steve Davis, pianist-keyboardist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Dwayne Burno, drummer Eric McPherson and percussionist Kahlil Bell. The tracks are a mixture of quartet, sextet and septet arrangements, with the larger ensembles conveying a little big band feel. “My idea was to try to create a bunch of different colors and textures, show myself in different settings,” Greene explains. From Chick Corea’s “Humpty Dumpty” through the original “Mr. McLean,” there’s a broad mindedness, while maintaining a logical thread.
“We have a lot of information,” suggests Greene. “Jazz is a century old—not that I try to address all of it, but I try to keep an open mindedness about all encompassing but very specific kinds of things, which I like to capture in different settings.” The influence of Jackie McLean is a clear seal on Jimmy Greene’s work since he matriculated at Hartt School of Music, where McLean has educated for decades. “I started under him from the time I was 15 until graduation at 22. Jackie’s influence is deep, and it comes through in my playing.”