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Benny Green: Live in Santa Cruz!

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Benny Green conveys exalted inspiration without showboating or pretentiousness. Even his most subtle and complex offerings go down with such ease that it may take several listens for the depth of that subtlety and complexity to become truly evident.

This set, recorded live at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, features the pianist in a trio setting with bassist David Wong and drummer Kenny Washington. The opening number, “Certainly,” sets the tone. It kicks off with hard-charging, full-bodied swing and never lets up; Green’s percussive block chords and lightly executed but sharply focused single-note lines complement his bandmates’ impetus, combining rhythmic thrust and textural complexity. Wong is both timekeeper and font of bottom-range improvisation; Washington deftly exploits the melodic and rhythmic capacities of his instrument. The three toss ideas among themselves, each riffing and vamping a while before handing off to the next player, often juggling several concepts at once.

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