Combine mastery of keyboard technique with decades of real-world experience, playing with some of the most celebrated artists of the last half century, and it’s no wonder Benny Green has been hailed as one of the most exciting hard-swinging pianists to ever emerge from Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Benny is the bearer of the torch and guardian of a legacy handed down to him, personally, by his musical mentors. Since emerging under the tutelage of Betty Carter, Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, and Ray Brown in the early 1980s, Benny has become a highly regarded pianist and bandleader of his own right.
Born in New York in 1963, Benny Green grew up in Berkeley, California, and began classical piano studies at the age of seven. Influenced by his father, a tenor saxophonist, his attention soon turned to jazz: “I began trying to improvise on the piano, imitating the records I’d been hearing from my father’s collection, which included a lot of Monk and Bird… it was a gradual process of teaching myself.” Benny never looked back and never stopped learning as his blossoming talents, supported by mentors such as Walter Bishop, Jr. and others, plus his love for the music propelled him to the upper strata of jazz luminaries.
Benny’s list of credits, accomplishments, and accolades could literally fill a book. His recordings with the masters form a foundation of jazz education. Some notable highlights include beginning his touring life with Betty Carter for four years and realizing a lifelong dream of becoming a Jazz Messenger; being chosen by Oscar Peterson in 1993 as the first recipient of the City of Toronto’s Glen Gould International Protégé Prize in Music (culminating in 1998’s Oscar & Benny recorded for Telarc). Appearing on well over 100 recordings, with legacy artists such as Betty Carter (including Grammy award winner (Look What I Got), Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Watson, Milt Jackson, Diana Krall, and being particularly featured in Ray Brown’s trio series of CDs for Telarc: Bass Face (1993), Don’t Get Sassy (1994), Some of my best friends … (1994), Seven Steps to Heaven (1995), Super Bass (1996) and Live at Sculler’s (1996).
As the leader of his own groups, Benny’s recording career began with two albums for the Dutch label Criss Cross: Prelude (1988) and In This Direction (1989). In 1990 Green started recording for Blue Note: Lineage (1990), Greens (1991), Testifiyin’ (1992), That’s Right! (1993), The Place To Be (1994), Kaleidoscope (1997) and These Are Soulful Days (1999). His debut recording on Telarc Jazz, entitled Naturally, was released in 2000, and were followed by tho solo piano date Green’s Blues (2001), Jazz at the Bistro (2003, a duo recording Russell Malone) and Bluebird (2004, again pairing Green with Malone). A hiatus from recording produced Benny’s 2011 trio date, Source (JLP). Recording for Sunnyside since 2013, Benny has released Magic Beans (2013), Live in Santa Cruz (2015), Happiness (2017), Then And Now (2018) and Benny’s Crib (2020). His latest Sunnyside release, Solo, was released May 12, 2023.