When Jimmy Greene came to the University of Manitoba in 2009, a certain sound, a certain feel, a certain musical language came with him. It wasn’t here before he got here, and it left when he left a few years later. As his many fans in Winnipeg know, when Jimmy plays, he has a wonderful upbeat energy, an endless fund of expressive ideas, and of course deep spiritual roots because he’s coming from a spiritual place.
His recordings are gorgeous. Brave New World, True Life Stories, Gifts and Givers, Live at Smalls, and of course Beautiful Life, his recent recording honouring his daughter Ana Grace—all of them are rich and full. He plays with musicians he knows well, musicians who share his language and sensibility. Together they create magic across the board, from excitable up-tempo tunes to contemplative church-like ballads.
Jimmy is a phenomenal writer. His tunes are harmonically and rhythmically complex and always original, but they feel almost familiar—you think you’ve heard this before, but then there’s a twist that surprises you. On recording after recording and in performance after performance, he shows his capacities as both a player and a writer. I know all of us in Winnipeg were crossing our fingers when he was nominated for a Grammy for Beautiful Life.
This year marks the twentieth season of the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, and they’re off to a great start with “Mission Statement,” a whole concert featuring Jimmy Greene as both performer and writer. He’s a particularly gifted big band writer and arranger, so the orchestra will be challenged but also supported as they take on this repertoire. I know I am not alone in looking forward to hearing the beauty and complexity of Jimmy’s musical ideas once again on a Winnipeg stage.