Benny Green: These Are Soulful Days

In case anyone failed to notice, 1999 was the 60th anniversary of Blue Note Records; it was also pianist Benny Green’s tenth year with the label. His current release is something of a celebration of these coincident events: label head Bruce Lundvall suggested to Green that he put together a set of tunes from Blue Note’s illustrious history. Green, in the company of guitarist Russell Malone and bassist Christian McBride, takes on compositions by Horace Silver, Elmo Hope, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, Cal Massey, Dexter Gordon, and Lee Morgan. Their ensemble work is impeccable, ranging from locked-hands piano and guitar voicings to more open three-linecounterpoint-held together with generous swing. Green is a pleasure to hear in improvisation: he doesn’t push the envelope, but takes you on a fine ride just the same. Malone shows himself to be somewhat less content with the mainstream: touches of overdrive and harmonic adventure add needed spice to the proceedings. McBride is brilliant, finding subtle ways to vary time and feel.