Born in New York in 196 3, pianist Benny Green has the history of jazz at his fingertips. He grew up in California and began classical piano at seven. Influenced by his fathe r, a tenor saxophonist, his attention soon turned into Jazz. As a teenager he was already working with the great Eddie Henderson. Back in New York his studies with veteran pianist Walter Bishop Jr. were followed by a short stint with Bobby Watson and four years with the great Betty C arter. At 24, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and later became part of Freddie Hubbard’s quintet.
In 1993 Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the Glen Gould International Protégé Prize in Music. That year, he replaced Gene Harris in Ray Brown’s Trio. In 1997 he resumed his freelance career, leading his own trios, accompanying singers like Diana Krall, concentrating in his solo piano performances and recording extensively.
Benny has appeared as a guest performer on over one hundred recordings, with legacy artists Carter, Blakey, Hubbard, Bobby Watson, Milt Jackson, Diana Krall, and Ray Brown. His 2000 recording debut on Telarc Jazz featured bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone. With the later release of Green’s Blues, Benny updated tradition with an exciting solo collection of jazz standards by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner and George Gershwin and others.
He served as musical director of the Monterey Jazz Festival All Star 50th Anniversary Tour and continues to lead workshops and master classes at Juilliard School, Interlochen, the Monk Institute, and other institutions. In 2011 Benny released a much-anticipated Trio album, MONK’S DREAM: 50 YEARS FRESH with Kenny Washington on drums and Peter Washington on bass. It proved once again no contemporary jazz pianist owns the trio format like Benny does.
Benny appeared at The Litchfield Jazz Festival in 2010 in a Cannonball Adderley Tribute and in a stunning performance with Anat Cohen. In 2009 he treated us to a duo performance with the great Bucky Pizzarelli. This is his first appearance here as a leader. Benny appears on piano with his Quartet with Kenny Washington on drums, Peter Washington on bass and baritone saxophonist and this year’s LJF Artist in Residence, Gary Smulyan.
He will be appearing at the Litchfield Jazz Festival on Saturday, August 11th, 2012.
All images by Steven Sussman, taken live at the Litchfield Jazz Festival.