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ALBUM REVIEWS

Green Tries Something New

March 09, 1997|Don Heckman

BENNY GREEN

"Kaleidoscope"

Blue Note

* * *

In his final appearance with longtime associate bassist Ray Brown at Catalina Bar & Grill last year, just before the pair amicably parted paths, pianist Green explained that he was eager to take his music in a new direction. "Kaleidoscope" makes it clear that what he had in mind was a new direction that did not sacrifice the qualities of swing and straight-ahead musical drive that have been essential qualities in his playing from the very beginning.

What emerges instead in this inventive set of tunes is a richer harmonic palette and a more structurally oriented approach to his compositions. Working with a basic ensemble that includes Antonio Hart, alto saxophone, Russell Malone, guitar, Ron Carter, bass, and Lewis Nash, drums (with tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine guesting on two numbers), Green uses his players in a variety of attractive musical settings. The brisk, upbeat "Sexy Mexy" is a showcase for Malone's blues-drenched lines; on "Patience," Green and Carter come together to produce a floating, lyrical duet; on "My Girl Bill," Green returns to trio format, but it is a less-familiar instrumentation of piano, bass and guitar; and on "Apricot," Green uses a bossa nova-tinged rhythm as the foundation for an unusual sequence of key-shifting harmonies.

It's not exactly a revolutionary change of attitude, but it is an attractive change of perspective from a young artist who--despite his considerable experience (this is his eighth album as a leader)--seems only now to be discovering his own way to fly.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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