Evanston sax player leads ‘Group Effort’
The Chris Greene Quartet | Photo by Ozzie Ramsay
The Chris Greene
Release of its live CD
“A Group Effort,” Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave., Chicago
8 p.m. May 24
Tickets are $18-$38
(773) 381-4554 or visit www.maynestage.com
Updated: May 15, 2012 9:52PM
Almost seven years after forming from the remnant’s of his New Perspective electric-jazz/funk/fusion ensemble, Evanston sax player Chris Greene’s Chris Greene Quartet is still going strong and celebrating the release of its sixth recording and first live CD.
The “A Group Effort” release party will be held at the venue where the CD was recorded last October, at 8 p.m. May 24 in the Mayne Stage in Chicago.
Greene first picked
up the alto sax as a fifth-grader at Evanston’s
Washington Elementary school, but didn’t become serious about jazz until a teacher in the jazz program at ETHS played John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” for him.
“That completely turned my head around and made me think, ‘This is what I want to do,’ ” he said.
Until that attitude adjustment, though, Greene, who went on to study jazz at Indiana University and to perform with Common, Sheena Easton, Liquid Soul and the Mighty Blue Kings in addition to leading his own groups, had been paying much more attention to pop, funk, rap and hip-hop.
Back in 1995, New Perspective was a very conscious effort by Greene to fuse the music he listened to while growing up with the so-called traditional jazz he had grown to love. (Traditional is a label he mildly objects to on the grounds that golden-age artists like Miles Davis and Coltrane were hardly content to remain within a tradition.)
After two albums from New Perspective and a few years touring and gigging as a sideman, though, Greene formed the acoustic CGQ with the intention of allowing his musical influences to emerge more organically.
“My inspiration is all around me; I’m a musician of my time,” he said. “This group plays quote-unquote traditional acoustic jazz, but I’m infusing it with all the influences I grew up with: funk and hip-hop and blues and gospel.
“We don’t consciously have to try to fuse those things together, really, because in our heads they’ve already been fused.”
One of the side benefits of acknowledging the influence of contemporary pop music, of allowing a dose of funk into the mix, for example, when it feels right, is that the CGQ has developed a reputation as a group that touches all the classic bases, but with cross-over appeal.
Greene said he is very pleased with the way the live recording, which features seven original numbers plus the ’60s standard “Blue Bossa,” worked out. Especially as recorded by ace Chicago engineer Joe Tortorici. “When you listen to this album through headphones, it sounds like you’re on stage with us.
“It’s a pretty nice documentation of the way we sound live, when we stretch out on tunes,” Greene said, noting that the group’s comparative longevity has cultivated their ability to improvise together. “I think the four of us are really playing our hearts out on this record.”