Chris Greene Quartet | Boundary Issues

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Boundary Issues

by Chris Greene Quartet

The next funky, bold and quirky statement - in a series of funky, bold, and quirky statements - from the critically acclaimed Chicago saxophonist and his longtime musical associates.
Genre: Jazz: Jazz-Funk
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Prologue: The Inner Conversation
1:00 $0.99
2. Here to Help
6:40 $0.99
3. Nica's Dream
8:12 $0.99
4. Summer Song
9:44 $0.99
5. Thunder Snow
6:49 $0.99
6. Blues for Dr. Fear
6:54 $0.99
7. Dienda
8:28 $0.99
8. Wildcat
8:11 $0.99
9. The Crossover Appeal
9:31 $0.99
10. Day Dream
5:23 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The website Guide to Psychology defines a boundary as “anything that marks a limit.”  Although the term, “boundary issues” is typically used in a somewhat negative sense when somebody is invading somebody else’s personal space, Greene clearly has the prior conception, that of surpassing limits, in mind.  Boundary Issues is another in a string of accomplished recordings whereby Greene neatly disposes of polite musical boundaries.  It should be noted that this is not as simple as smearing jelly on toast and is much easier said than done. As any experienced musician understands, it is very difficult for one to blend musical styles or perform a cover in an unconventional genre without giving off the aroma of uninspired imitation or finding oneself accused of commercial pandering. When it clicks beyond pastiche, however, the results are deeply rewarding, like finding a beautiful beach vista that was not on a map. In fact, that kind of potential is hilariously depicted in the film (and book) High Fidelity where the main character hears an unconventional cover of Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way.” He looks at his cohorts spellbound and says, “I never liked this song before.”

Crossing “boundary issues” with substance and verve requires at least two characteristics: guts and artistic sensibility. Anybody who knows Chris Greene knows that he has guts, both on and off the bandstand and is unafraid to call out a situation that is not working or defies good sense. The artistic sensibility is also paramount to Greene’s success. This writer has read and witnessed many interviews of jazz artists with similar passions such as Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman and Christian McBride. Many of these artists express that successful “cross pollination” involves (a) a voracious appetite for eclectic musical styles, and (b) a willingness to patiently experiment until one finds emotional resonance.

Greene, himself, notes that he has always viewed musical “boundary issues” as a positive gateway to organic musical happenings.  His past recordings demonstrate that Greene and his bandmates are not afraid to merge eclectic genres.  Aside from his own originals and jazz standards, past recordings have featured songs penned by disparate artists such as Madonna, Black Eyed Peas, and Hank Williams. Unlike some previous Greene albums, Boundary Issues does not feature any pop covers. Instead, it features a collection of stimulating originals and jazz standards. The pearl of this album is the way that the musicians transcend stylistic boundaries vis-à-vis their potent musical abilities and aesthetic open-mindedness.

Greene’s own saxophone playing is at the heart of this approach. He possesses a burnished tenor tone that, while part of his own voice, also displays strains of other post-bop tenor masters who house tremendous respect for the history of the instrument, such as Branford Marsalis and Billy Pierce. Like those two vaunted figures, Greene’s tenor sound fits perfectly into any style, ranging from his soulful work on the contemporary Yellowjackets tune, “Summer Song” to the delightful Eddie Harris funk of “Here To Help.” He clearly has respect for the soprano saxophone as its own voice, as demonstrated by his ethereal tone on the Ellington/Strayhorn ballad, “Day Dream.” Moreover, he has the saxophone chops to engage any genre or groove and then organically alter that groove when the musical moment calls for it. His quartet’s take on the Kenny Kirkland tune “Dienda” marks a perfect example of this ability, with Greene darting back and forth between rhythmic grooves and time signatures, completely in tune with post-bop sensibilities and any emergent musical possibilities.

His vision is aided admirably by his regular quartet, with Damian Espinosa on piano and keyboards, Marc Piane on bass, and Steve Corley on drums and percussion. Pianist Espinosa complements Greene as a terrific soloist and accompanist. Both skills are showcased nicely on the post-bop tour de force “Thunder Snow.” Greene and Espinosa interweave perfectly as they tap dance through effortless harmonic modulations. On this track, in particular, one musician ceases to accompany another soloist; they are engaged in a conversation. Greene notes of Espinosa, “In addition to being a monster player and a harmonic master - he's one of the few pianists that I’ve played with that goes out of his way to make the soloist (and the band) play better. With just the touch of the keyboard, his playing will say to me, ‘Dude, you’ve already played that. Reach for something else. Anything else. QUICKLY!’ He’s like the band’s own sparring partner.”

A group that explores eclectic styles needs a particularly strong anchor in their bass player. Not only because it is difficult to find bassists with such stylistic maturity but also because is not always easy to find bassists who excel equally on acoustic and electric. However, as demonstrated by his slick electric bass chops on “Summer Song” and “Crossover Appeal,” Marc Piane is that bassist. Greene notes, “I love playing with Marc because he can go in whatever direction that a song needs to go. Need a walking bass line and a big sound like Oscar Pettiford or Ray Brown? Marc’s got it. Need to explore the universe like Charlie Haden or Jimmy Garrison? Marc’s got it. Need a nasty funky ostinato like Bootsy or Pino Palladino? Marc’s got it.”

On the subject of his formidable drummer Steve Corley, Greene states, “like Marc, Steve can go in any musical direction you ask - and he’ll do it with flair, integrity and precision. And even though he has the best time of any drummer I’ve played with, things never get stiff, routine, or formulaic with him - especially when he solos. Plus, he’s got that ‘church’ thing in his playing that I love - so he’s able to make even the most complex time signature digestible to the casual listener.” This ability showcased admirably on the “Blues for Dr. Fear,” which begins in a perilous 11/8 meter. Throughout the blues, Corley’s soulful accompaniment stands out even though the odd meter exchanges, equal parts Art Blakey and Lenny White.

Boundary Issues also benefits from a talented team of guest musicians. Guitarist Isaiah Sharkey lends his soulful sound to two tracks, in particular aiding the cover of Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream” with his sharp reggae accompaniment. The effortless CTI-era groove of “Here To Help” is briefly interrupted by the hilarious vocal broadcast of Julio Davis (aka DJ WLS). The tenor saxophonist Marqueal Jordan, more widely known for his R&B/Contemporary work, engages in a friendly “tenor battle” on the aptly titled “Crossover Appeal.” JoVia Armstrong lends her mighty percussion abilities to two tracks, in particular adding an indelible reggae groove to “Nica’s Dream.” As on his previous Music Appreciation release, the efforts of the Chris Greene Quartet are aided inestimably by the fine recording studio magic of producer Joe Tortorici and engineer Rob Ruccia, who always achieve pristine sound quality without any loss of greasy soulfulness.

Commenting on this recording, Greene states that the album title alludes to two different phenomena.  Having worked alongside the same quality musicians for years, he enjoys his role as a leader most when his musicians are freely exploring musical boundaries as well as their own musical impulses.  He notes, “I like to get people who are good at what they do and let them go free.”  Listening to Boundary Issues, this clearly marks a recipe for success.



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