Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2017: Buster Williams (Festival Edition)

Jimmy Greene

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Great musicians are surrounded by an air of mystery and respect. This perception can be daunting, especially to young high school musicians just starting to play their instruments. In this particular example, I’m talking about myself.

When I first saw Jimmy Greene performing at the Jazz Festival a few years ago, he was a giant on stage—literally in the physical aspect, but also figuratively in his stage presence. The tenor looked like an alto next to his grand physique. At a recent festival, I remember going with my friend to Maw’s for the jam session. All of the jazz profs and a few other elite musicians, including Jimmy Greene, were sitting on the top balcony. I remember thinking that only the best were allowed up there; they were all musicians who had travelled far and seen things, and they could play their instruments with supreme efficiency and ability. I wondered if I could ever get to that celestial level someday.

When I heard Jimmy Greene play back then, I was intimidated by the divinity of his playing and the stature of his character, but I was also incredibly inspired. He brings to his music a soulfulness and passion that stays with you for a long time. His ability to connect with people on such a high emotional level bridges the gap between the virtuoso and the audience.

His album Beautiful Life is tender, sorrowful, and reflective, a beautiful example of Greene’s soft soprano and tenor tone, and his textured, moving lines. His latest album, Flowers: Beautiful Life Volume 2, a second tribute to his daughter Ana, is more rhythmic and lively. It is meant to be more danceable, and uses two ensembles and Latin percussion instead of a string section and children’s choir as on the first tribute album. As with all of his work, this music reflects his search for justice and love, and is an important reflection on the times that we are living in. If I grow up to play with that much heartfelt meaning in my music, I will have achieved something.

It wouldn’t be a Winnipeg Jazz Festival without a Jimmy Greene performance. Even though he comes from Hartford Connecticut, he is an integral part of the Winnipeg jazz scene and has helped shape it into what it is today. With the April release of his latest album Flowers: Beautiful Life Volume 2, we will have the chance to hear brand new material from the master himself. Don’t miss this opportunity!

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