Born in New York in 1963, 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: “I began trying to improvise on the piano, imitating the records I’d been hearing from my father’s collection, which included a lot of Monk and Bird…it was a gradual process of teaching myself.” He played in school bands before hooking up with jazz singer Fay Carroll. As a teenager he worked with Eddie Henderson, and got some big band experience with a 12-piece group led by Chuck Israels. After his graduation, Benny freelanced around the Bay Area for a year, and then moved to New York in the spring of 1982. After a short stint with Bobby Watson, Green worked with Betty Carter between 1983 and 1987, the year he joined Art Blakey’s band. He remained a Jazz Messenger through late 1989, at which point he began working with Freddie Hubbard’s quintet. In 1993 Oscar Peterson chose Benny as the first recipient of the City of Toronto’s Glenn Gould International Protégé Prize in Music. That year, Green replaced Gene Harris in Ray Brown’s trio, working with the veteran bass player until 1997. From 1997 on, Benny resumed his freelance career, leading his own trios accompanying singers like Diana Krall, and concentrated on his solo piano performances.
His recording career, which includes over 100 sessions, is very impressive. He is particularly featured in Ray Brown’s CDs for Telarc – Bass Face (1993), Don’t Get Sassy (1994), Some of My Best Friends… (1994), Seven Steps to Heaven (1995), Super Bass (1996), and Live at Sculler’s (1996). As a 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 – Lineage (1990), Greens (1991), Testifyin’ (1992), That’s Right! (1993), The Place To Be (1994), Kaleidoscope (1997) and These Are Soulful Days (1999). He has recorded for Toshiba (Funky, 1997) and for Telarc with Oscar Peterson (Oscar & Benny, 1997). In 2000, his debut recording on Telarc Jazz, entitled Naturally, was released, which featured bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Russell Malone, musicians who have both inspired and challenged him to explore new territory. It was recorded just days after an acclaimed performance at the 2000 IAJE Conference in New Orleans. With the release of Green’s Blues, Benny returned to his roots and updated the tradition with an exciting solo collection of jazz standards by Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Erroll Garner, and George Gershwin, among others, with his highly personal style.