WBGO Radar

Jimmy Greene: Beautiful Life

saxophonist jimmy greene's cd beautiful life

What drives one to create? To aspire to a level of personal satisfaction, to share an inner drive, spirit and passion with others?

For saxophonist Jimmy Greene, the feeling came early. He studied hard, practiced, watched and learned with the likes of Horace Silver, Renee Rosnes, and Jackie McLean, and is faithful to the joy that kindled the initial spark.

When Jimmy plays, it feels like family; those swells that keep us close to cherished things, and special people. Family.

Jimmy Greene is a family man. A musician who shares with us his sense of well being and worth through music. It's a solid purpose that moves him through delight, joy, and tragedy.

Two years ago, Jimmy and Nelba Greene lost their 6-year-old daughter Ana to the heinous crime we know as Newtown. When I saw Jimmy this past summer, I asked about the healing.

"One day at a time, every day in time," he said.

With Beautiful Life, Jimmy Greene's focus moves from inward to outward. The music it contains is, he says, "a grateful reminder of the beauty around us, and still all there is to be thankful for."

A reminder of a young life, so full of spirit, wonder, curiosity and love, Beautiful Life sets to music a celebration of a joyous young life Jimmy, Nelba and young son Isaiah want us to feel.

The songs chosen are especially purposeful to understanding Ana's beautiful life.

"Saludos” (which means “greetings” in Spanish)/Come Thou Almighty King" has Ana's voice joined by her older brother on piano and guitarist Pat Metheny.

"Last Summer" and "Seventh Candle,"  written by Greene on what would have been Ana's 7th birthday, has his tenor alongside pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash.

"Ana's Way," "When I Come Home" and "Little Voices" speak about Ana's life, a father's hope through grief and suggestion as to where we go from here as a society. Kurt Elling, musicians from the Hartford Symphony and Linden Christian School Early Years Choir join Greene, Rosnes, McBride and Nash in celebration of the joy Ana found in life.

"Maybe," from The musical "Annie" was one if Ana's favorites. In duo, Greene's soprano sax and Kenny Barron's piano deliver what would surely bring a smile.

Vocalist Latanya Hall, guitarist Jonathan DuBose, Jr. and spoken word from Anika Noni Rose also allow us a big view of a family who daughter's little voice lives so large for them...and now for us.

Beautiful Life is released by Mack Avenue on November 25th. Jimmy will celebrate his daughter's life in performance December 11 - 13 with his quartet at Jazz Standard.

   - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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