Sunday, March 12, 2017
Chris Greene & His Quartet Explore New Musical Territories on "Boundary Issues," Due April 14
Joining the core quartet as guests on several tracks are saxophonist Marqueal Jordan, known for his work with smooth jazz star Brian Culbertson; percussionist JoVia Armstrong, who's played with Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble and JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound; guitarist Isaiah Sharkey, a member of D'Angelo's band; and vocalist Julio Davis (aka DJ WLS). Greene's eclectic song selection, inventive arrangements, and choice of guests not normally associated with jazz perfectly coalesce to present a portrait of an artist unafraid to take the road less traveled, push the envelope, and explore the frontiers of jazz.
In addition to three originals, Boundary Issues includes creative covers of works by Horace Silver ("Nica's Dream"), Kenny Kirkland ("Dienda"), Yellowjackets ("Summer Song"), and Billy Strayhorn ("Day Dream"). As his previous treatments of songs by artists as diverse as Madonna, Coltrane, Sting, Mingus, and lounge music king Martin Denny attest, Greene's naming his latest album Boundary Issues could be viewed as a tongue-in-cheek self-diagnosis. "I have a hard time staying in place," he confides. "I don't know my place, I guess, which is why I'm always stepping outside so-called boundaries. With the music I like, I just can't help thinking, what would it sound like if I did this, or this?" A case in point is his spacious reggae version of Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream." "I thought the biggest tribute to him would be to do something different," says Greene. "The idea to cover that classic as a reggae tune came to me while I was listening to music in the shower. It was like, why not?"
Greene studied at Indiana University with the late David Baker and the current jazz studies department chair Thomas Walsh. "It was a great experience for me," he says. "I was a kid with a lot of natural talent, but with a lack of discipline. I learned how to practice, how to break things down, how to solve problems."
Upon his return to Chicago, he continued his education by reaching out to established artists including Steve Coleman. "He was hard-headed in his determination to play music his way," he says. "It was a huge eye-opener for me how he put things together." Greene also got a major boost from Coleman's legendary mentor, Chicago tenor legend Von Freeman, at one of his famous jam sessions: "He didn't know me from Adam, but he was very encouraging. He said, 'Hey, I hear what you're trying to do. Keep at it.' That meant so much."
In 2005, Greene formed his current quartet. Whether the group is hugging tradition or engaging in experimentation, it radiates a deep sense of well-being. With each release, Greene has moved steadily from funk mildly seasoned with jazz to uncompromising jazz boasting subtle funk touches. As witness the title of the quartet's 2012 album, "A Group Effort," Greene prizes the band's ability to think and feel as one, to "leave fingerprints on each other's playing."
The Chris Greene Quartet will be celebrating the release of "Boundary Issues" at the following Midwest engagements: 4/21 Constellation, Chicago; 4/28 Gibraltar, Milwaukee; 5/1 La Principal, Evanston, IL; 5/20 Winter's, Chicago; 5/30 Promontory, Chicago; 6/9-10 Pete Miller's, Evanston, IL; 6/17 Noce Jazz, Des Moines; 6/18 Custer St. Festival of the Arts, Evanston; 7/5 Jazzin' at the Shedd (concert series at Shedd Aquarium, Chicago).
Photography: Ozzie Ramsay