The Fender Rhodes electric piano is like Aramis 900, Pierre Cardin’s Pour Monsieur or Paco Rabanne’s Pour Homme. The scents of these aftershaves are so distinctly ’70s, one whiff takes you back in a flash to long sideburns, aviator glasses and bell-bottoms. [Photo above of Benny Green courtesy of Benny Green]
The same goes for the sound of the Fender Rhodes. It’s a mellow, reverberating and wistful instrument that reminds me of 1970s autumnal melancholy. For the Rhodes to sound updated now, it needs to be in the right hands. The player must feed into the instrument’s ’70s personality while making it sound contemporary.
Benny Green is such a player. His new album, Benny’s Crib (Sunnyside), released today, makes glorious use of the Rhodes. Green plays the electric instrument on all 11 tracks, adding the acoustic piano to two of them. In each case, he makes the instrument sound as soothing and introspective as the harp and as charasmatic as the celeste. Notes ring beautifully.
Five of the tracks are originals—Central Park South, My Girl Bill, Harold Land, Did We Try? and Benny’s Crib. The other choices show off Green’s great taste and are by the composers in parenthesis: Tivoli (Dexter Gordon), Coral Keys (Walter Bishop Jr.), Seascape (Kenny Barron), Something in Common (Cedar Walton) and For Tomorrow (McCoy Tyner).
Green is joined on the album by bassist David Wong, drummer Aaron Kimmel, flutist Anne Drummond and Josh Jones on congas. Veronica Swift wrote the vocalese lyrics for Benny’s Crib and sings them. This album is so beautiful. The songs are terrific, and Green’s expansive chords and playing are soulful and warm. You’ll find yourself listening to the album over and over, falling in love once again with the sound of the Fender Rhodes. Just go easy on the Hi Karate. [Photo above of Veronica Swift courtesy of Veronica Swift]
JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Benny Green’s Benny’s Crib here.
My earlier review of Benny Green’s Then and Now is here.
JazzWax clips: Here’s My Girl Bill…
My Girl Bill
And here’s Harold Land…
- Benny Green: Then and Now
- Benny Green: Then & Now
- Interview: Stephanie Nakasian