Born in New York, 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. 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.
Green began his touring life with Betty Carter for four years and subsequently realized a life long dream of becoming a Jazz Messenger with Art Blakey from 1987-1989. 1989 saw Green joining the Freddie Hubbard Quintet for 3 years and from 1992-1996, Green worked in the Ray Brown Trio. Apart from numerous accolades, In 1993 Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the City of Toronto’s Glen Gould International Protégé Prize in Music which later resulted in the two performing in a double piano album “Oscar & Benny”, recorded in 1998. A prolifically recorded musician, Green has appeared on well over one hundred recordings.
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, which yielded 7 highly rated albums: Lineage (1990), Greens (1991), Testifiyin’ (1992), That’s Right! (1993), The Place To Be (1994), Kaleidoscope (1997) and These Are Soulful Days (1999). In 2000, his debut recording on Telarc Jazz entitled “Naturally” was released, which featured bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone. The 2000s saw the release of a solo piano date “Green’s Blues”, and in 2003 “Jazz at the Bistro”, a duo recording Malone, followed by “Bluebird” again pairing Green with Malone. His most recent albums are 2011’s trio date “Source”, a 2013 album with all original music “Magic Beans”, and a live album in 2015 “Live In Santa Cruz”. His latest album is “Happiness! Live at Kuumbwa” (2017).
We talk about how he learned piano from childhood, his studies with Walter Bishop Jr in New York, working with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, his approach to improvisation and harmony, many of his original compositions from his discography, his latest album “Happiness! Live at Kuumbwa”, advice for young musicians and much, much more!