Last Saturday night, renowned jazz group The Jimmy Greene Quartet paid a visit to the College, holding a concert in Brooks-Rogers Auditorium that left jazz connoisseurs and new-comers alike in awe and admiration. The concert, organized by Lyell B. Clay Artists in Residence in Jazz Kris Allen and Andrew Jaffe (also the Director of Jazz Activities), and Artist Associate in Jazz Bass Avery Sharpe, was intended both to exhibit the talent of accomplished saxophonist Jimmy Greene, and to allow an opportunity for students of the College and interested faculty to have access to a free jazz show by one of the most promising upcoming artists of our era. On both counts, the performance surpassed all expectations.
As Allen said in his introduction “[Greene] is, what I think is the top tenor saxophonist of our generation … his accomplishments more than speak for themselves.” One would be hard-pressed would be to find reasons to disagree with Allen’s assertion. Having recorded over 70 albums, and worked with such jazz greats as Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard and Harry Connick, Jr., Greene’s jazz and performance credentials are untouchable, earning him first runner-up in the 1996 “Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition” and a conspicuous appearance in DownBeat magazine’s “25 Young Rising Stars in Jazz.”
But, as Allen said in his introduction, “once [Greene] is a few bars in, the rest doesn’t matter.” That, more than anything, proved undeniably true in Saturday’s show. In fact, as soon as Greene opened with his composition “Last Summer,” you couldn’t help but be in awe of the sound he made. His mixture of technical finesse and an unbelievable capacity for power and intensity immediately revealed why all the critics are raving. Put simply, it was hard to believe he was extracting such sounds from his saxophone.
But the show didn’t stop there. On the contrary, the Quartet ended up playing a set that lasted over an hour and a half, keeping audience members entertained and intrigued with each new twist and turn of the set list. Particularly strong performances came in “I Love You,” a brilliantly arranged performance of the classic Cole Porter standard, and Greene’s own “Bloomfield,” a veritable sound explosion that showed off the virtuosic skill of the rest of Greene’s Quartet, including pianist Xavier Davis, drummer Jonathan Barber, and standout bassist Dezron Douglas, whose solo competed with Greene’s own for most entertaining of the night.
Also entertaining were the sparse but fascinating spoken interjections between songs, where Greene would describe, among other things, stories of his life and descriptions of the creative processes that led him to write specific pieces. Of particular note was the revelation that Greene, in fact, had a personal relationship with Allen from childhood. As he described it: “Kris and I were actually best friends during high school … I used to go over to his house and play pool and ping-pong and all the other stuff kids do, and then we would practice together.” The concert then also doubled as a kind of “class reunion” for Greene and Allen, adding a touch of the nostalgic and sentimental to the atmosphere of the night.
All good things, however, ultimately have to come to an end, and eventually the concert did close despite the protests of the enthusiastic crowd. Nevertheless, Greene’s performance showed the College’s student body the unbelievable talent of one of the jazz world’s upcoming greats. I, along with everyone else in attendance, can definitively say that I can not wait to follow the rest of Greene’s promising career and see just how far he goes.