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Benny Green: Green’s Blues

In this program of unaccompanied piano solos, Benny Green often sounds as if he could be holding forth at a Harlem rent party in the 1930s or appearing on radio’s “Piano Playhouse” in the 1940s. Then he’ll lay in a chord sequence so wryly hip and modern, so personal, that it could only be Benny Green. The repertoire is standards, except for his original title tune. The selections include several of the usual suspects-“Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Misty,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” “Just You, Just Me”-but he also pulls up songs like “I’ve Heard That Song Before,” “Green Eyes” and “You Make Me Feel So Young” that seldom attract the attention of solo pianists.

The tempos are mostly up, the attack is mostly vibrant, the stride left hand is vigorous. There is plenty of playing with Oscar Peterson, Erroll Garner and Fats Waller in mind, and plenty of humor. Green manages to slip a “Porgy and Bess” medley and a bit of “Now’s the Time ” into “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” but when he turns the mood reflective on “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “I Got It Bad,” we are reminded that this rollicking pianist is also a master of touch, dynamics, harmonic subtlety and surprising melodic turns.

Originally Published