Benny Green Trio at the Bird
Benny Green trio appeared at the Bird of Paradise in Ann Arbor
the first weekend of December, and I had the pleasure of attending opening
night, December first. Green's present trio consists of guitarist Randy
Napoleon, who attended Ann Arbor Community High and the University of
Michigan, and bassist Brandon Owen, a 20-year old from Los Angeles.
The group was on a brief Midwestern tour after playing a few engagements
in their home in the Big Apple.
The group has a repertoire and
style reminiscent of the Nat Cole trio, but without the vocals and with
a little more bebop. The latter should not be surprising, since we are
now close to the sixtieth anniversary of the birth of bebop, and stylistic
revivals are the tenor of the today. Green is, of course, not the only
one harking back to the music of Cole (but his contemporary Diana Krall
holds the additional advantages of singing and of striking looks).
Green's stage appearance has
changed considerably since I saw him with Ray Brown. He now sports long
hair and chews gum. I will leave it to People magazine to speculate
on his motivations for these changes.
One of Green's strongest musical
influences is Oscar Peterson, coming closer than many to Peterson's
combination of technical prowess and swing. Parker's "Dewey Square"
was a good example of this side of Green's playing. On the opener, "I
Can't Give You Anything But Love," and on "Five O'Clock Whistle,"
the influence of Cole's piano style was more apparent. Green's choice
not to amplify the bass and the piano placed the trio squarely in the
It was very gratifying to see
Randy Napoleon perform with someone of Green's technical caliber. He
kept up on the fast numbers and pulled off a number of relaxed and melodic
solos for example on "The Sunny Side of the Street"
and "Dedicated to You." Brandon Owens also did well, both
as an accompanist and a soloist.
Above (from left): Randy Napoleon, Brandon Owen,
photograph by Lars Björn
I N - T H I S - I S S U E :
1. BIRD OF PARADISE ORCHESTRA---2.
3. RECORD REVIEWS---4.
BENNY GREEN TRIO
5. SWINGING WITH THE SPIRITS