Quartet brings smooth jazz sounds
BENTON HARBOR—Whether you are a jazz aficionado or a jazz naïf, the Chris Greene Quartet will be playing some music for you to appreciate when they take the stage at The Livery at 8 p.m. on May 17.
“I appreciate it when there are people in the audience who really know about the history of the music, but the majority of the people in the audience are usually people who just want to enjoy some music—who just want to be entertained at the end of a long day at work,” said saxophonist and composer, Chris Greene.
However, no matter what the composition of the crowd, the Evanston, Illinois-based musician wants to provide a show that music-lovers all along the spectrum can enjoy.
“There are a lot of musicians who were able to do this real ‘arty’ music, but there was also something in it for the average person—artists like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane,” Greene explained. “There are things we as musicians can do to allow people in.”
Showcasing songs from their latest collection, “Music Appreciation,” the quartet will provide the audience with both classic jazz tunes by such greats as John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, as well as with original pieces.
“Of the 13 songs on our latest CD, I wrote three of them, my pianist wrote two, and my bassist wrote two,” Greene said. “The rest of them are basically our interpretations of other people’s songs, including John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, and there’s also one by a good friend of mine, William Kurk.”
The quartet chose the title, “Music Appreciation,” for a couple of reasons.
“As a band, we decided that we wanted to play music that we like or that challenges us. So, on a literal level, it’s music that we appreciate. We incorporated a bunch of styles on this album,” Greene explained. “We went in 13 clearly distinct directions on this album.”
However, the title of the collection also references the concept of a music appreciation course, like the ones Greene took while he was a student at Indiana University-Bloomington.
“On a subtler level, I wanted to approach it as a manifesto. The whole purpose of a music appreciation class is to give you an understanding of a certain type of music—what led up to it, and so forth,” Greene said. “As musicians, we are sort of self-described students of music as well. We’re trying to get better and study. What can we do to make our music better, sound better?”
Greene will be joined onstage by Damian Espinosa on piano and keyboards, Marc Piane on the double bass and Steve Corley on drums and percussion.
“As far as work on the arrangements is concerned, we’re really collaborators,” Greene said. “I feel more like a musical director rather than the leader of the band. We work the pieces out together, but as the musical director, I kind of have final say.”
While Greene was originally inspired to become a jazz musician after listening to the music of Miles Davis and John Coltrane as a junior in high school, the quartet also incorporates other genres of music into their compositions.
“I’ve been very much influenced by the masters of the past, but it’s 2014, and there’s a lot of music that’s come through the lexicon since then,” Greene said. “I like to listen to a lot of different styles—classical, hip hop, blues, gospel.”
Rather than shunning the variety of musical influences he was exposed to while he was growing up in Evanston, Greene has chosen to weave them into his compositions.
“I believe there’s really only two kinds of music—good music and bad. I think that there’s good and bad intent. I mean, if you’re making a whole lot of money, but you’re not really into it—if what you’re putting out isn’t really what you love—then the result isn’t going to be good.”
As such, Greene hopes that audience members of all types will find something in his music that resonates with them.
“Jazz started out as dance music. It’s still art to me, but there has to be that communication between me and the audience. After all, 95 percent of the audience isn’t musicians, and those are the people who will follow you.”
Greene recommends that concert-goers come to his show with an open mind.
“If you come to the show, leave all of your expectations or previous notions about jazz at the door, and just come to have a good time,” Greene suggested.
Tickets for the show are $10, and more information can be found at www.liverybrew.com. The album can be sampled at www.chrisgreenequartet.com/album/music-appreciation-2014-2, and more information about the quartet can be found at www. chrisgreenejazz.com.
Green and the other members of the quartet are looking forward to the show as well.
“We’ve been out to The Livery a couple times before, and we’ve always had a great time,” Greene said. “They’ve got a great staff, and it’s always been a great crowd.”