Jimmy Greene – Mission Statement (2009)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Late last year I covered a new release by David Weiss’ New Jazz Composers Octet, The Turning Gate. The names found in this band aren’t household names, but the high level of musicianship and composition writing savvy by every member of this collective nevertheless makes this a real jazz supergroup.

Well, today comes a new release by a member of the NJCO, the young tenor and soprano sax sensation Jimmy Greene. Called Mission Statement, I’m again reminded of his talents both as a player and composer.

While still in high school, Greene had the good fortune of learning first hand from one of the all time greats, Jackie McLean, and Greene adapted much of McLean’s advanced alto technique to the tenor. Of course, there’s some Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane to be found in his sound, too, but the end result is a style that’s mainstream bop, albeit in his own way.

Greene can compose some rather urbane, well-conceived jazz compositions, too. Its a talent that’s garnered him many awards and distinctions over the years. Like his playing style, it’s advanced bop, but not so much advanced you lose track of where the melody is headed.

For Mission Statement, Greene was able to assemble a stellar crew to back him up. He brought in a very promising young guitarist by the name of Lage Lund, the 2005 Thelonius Monk international competition winner. His rhythm section consists of the same rhythm section Charles Lloyd used for his outstanding record from last year, Rabo de Nube: Reuben Rogers on acoustic bass and the very prolific Eric Harland on drums. And finally, Reeves selected fellow NJCO compadre Xavier Davis on piano.

Curiously, while half of The Turning Gate‘s compositions were Davis’s, Greene contributed none. On this affair, however, Greene has written all but one of the ten songs, the exception being Harry Smith’s “Give Thanks,” which was nevertheless given a new arrangement by Greene.

With all the right ingredients in place, there are an abundance of highlights; here are just a few:

The opener, “Mission Statement,” kicks off the album the right way: a tour-de-force of the spirited side of Greene. Harmonically complex but always arriving at the right spot, Greene and Lund weave through the changes with the facility of seasoned masters. On “Trials,” Davis’ places his notes off the beat, creating a real funky current. Greene shows astonishing control in hitting the high notes, as Harland is powering the knotty rhythm with the skill of a Jack DeJohnette.

“Revelation” benefits from a guest appearance from vibe phenom Stefon Harris. On this tune, Greene switches to soprano, and it proves to be the perfect complement to Harris’ warm tones and challenging note runs.

The beautifully blue-shaded “In Nelba’s Eyes” is perhaps the strongest track of this set. It’s a delicate, slightly lugubriously lyrical number, and Greene’s tenor is oozing with romanticism. For “Ana Grace,” Davis supplements his piano with a Rhodes, after an extended, passionate soprano solo by Greene. The song retains its acoustic, straight-ahead flavor, however, and Davis’s perfunctory but fluid solo is on the piano.

The album is named Mission Statement because as Jimmy Greene relates in the liner notes, it “represents my story, as it can be told today. The music is, if nothing else, extremely personal. It deals with the most precious things in my life: love faith, family, relationships, childhood and dreams.” If that’s the case, then it can be said that Greene leads a fulfilling, rich life.

Mission Statement is presented by Avishai Cohen’s label, Razdaz Records. Visit Jimmy Greene’s website here.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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