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"Two years in the making, this is not an unfinished recording: even in his ailing final months, Green was finishing piano solos and overdubs, sequencing the tunes, planning artwork, and making clear his intentions for the final mix. He wanted this album to be a worthy farewell.
Gloriously, it is. Shades of Green is a triumph. And, for once, an album's punning title is absolutely appropriate, because of the tremendous variety of the music (shown off to its best advantage by the judicious order of the songs on the CD). Eddie Green was very good at quite a few musical tasks, and he got to show them all off--and his wonderful, empathetic group--over the sixty-five minutes of this cd.
The album's opening track, 'Marching Song #2,' might alone be worth the price of the album as Sutin characteristically states the theme over Miller's martial, military-band snare, only to have the band move into some serious swinging. But it's Eddie's solo that is the heart of this song: it's absolutely authoritative, leaving the listener with the indelible impression that no one understands this tune and can sing through its changes like its composer. His autonomous left hand, occasionally anticipating the beat, is reminiscent of Horace Silver, but Green's his own man; his choruses combine blues licks with an extremely rigorous thematic unity and logic and, really, sound like him, not like any other player. If one can tear one's attention from Green's solo, one can marvel at Brown and Miller's focused, attentive accompaniment, always listening and responding. The title track's a winner, too, with a questioning, searching melody (again, stated by Sutin) over a simple, hypnotic vamp and great walking bass from Brown. The lineup's the same as the Modern Jazz Quartet, but Green's quartet is earthier, less European-sounding. 'Passi Flora,' however, is very European-sounding, as it is a Spanish mini-epic with a drum intro swiped from Gil Evan's 'Solea' and a guitarrone solo from Brown that gave this listener goosebumps.
The numbers with strings are fascinating. Green wrote the arrangements for the quartet, and their role is about as far from pretty accompaniment as it can be. 'Prayer Dance' is absolutely beautiful but sharply intelligent and austere, and the strings dominate the second half: essentially, they play a long, Green-composed 'solo' full of interesting dissonances, essentially becoming a fifth member of the group. They play another harmonized (call it quadruple stopping if you like) 'solo' on 'Jazz Free...'
Perhaps most interesting is Green's arrangement of 'Lift Every Voice,' in which throbbing strings, playing in fourths, alternate with virtuosic, staggered drumming; this is as avant-garde, in its way, as John Zorn.
The album's sequencing always makes everything sound as good as it can. For example, after the demanding--head-scratching, even--bombast of 'Lift Every Voice,' we get the cd's other cover version, 'On the Trail,' which is plain old, hard-swinging, small-group jazz. The quartet seamlessly meshes, listens and responds. Sutin sounds--on this number, and on the rest of Shades of Green--like he's been playing with the other three for years, and it's during Sutin's fine solos that one can best enjoy Green's magical comping, which decorates and remarks upon Sutin's notes. Theirs is a dialogue that remains interesting and enjoyable through repeated listens, and, I think, for many listens to come.
Singers loved Green to accompany them and the album ends with classical soprano Rosella Clemmons-Washington singing Green's intended farewell, 'Peace.' It's transcendent, appropriate, and altogether right. Note Green's glorious piano accompaniment (he was, pure and simple, a great listening musician, whether it be to a vocalist or to his fellow instrumentalists) and note also his final solo over drums, bass and somber synth; it's as eloquent as the song's lyrics of 'peace and love and hope and harmony.' It's the perfect ending to an album that is somehow greater than any of its individual pieces.
Eddie Green's passing is a tragedy and a terrible loss to jazz music. Nothing can make this otherwise; but his final testament, Shades of Green, is such a fine, creative and alive document that we can all be consoled. To say nothing of entertained, engaged, and edified: Eddie got this last one right. Highly recommended."
- All About Jazz (allaboutjazz.com)
"Green's quartet swings in the fast-paced post-Bop tradition. The veteran keyboardist trades the spotlight with vibraphonist/percussionist Sutin in establishing the beachhead from which they launch their assault. Most of the selections were composed by Green, who is aptly supported by drummer Miller and bassists either Brown or Johnson...
On four tunes, the quartet is supplemented with the Tyrone Brown String Ensemble. The violas, violin, and cello plus Brown's bass add a sense of lushness to the music without sacrificing any of the rhythmic adventurousness or delightful improvisations inherent in the quartet's work. The ensemble's melody statement on Eddie Harris's 'Freedom Jazz Dance' permeates 'Jazz Free' to become the right ingredient for reflecting on the merits of the time-honored piece. The mood and rhythms change on 'Passi Flora,' where a Flamenco beat controls the tune's direction. The Blues, however, remain the lifeblood of the quartet. It pops up in numerous scenarios including the bouncy 'All of a Sutin.' Vocalist Clemmons-Washington joins the band on the closing 'Peace' to implant an uplifting message of hope. Green is a seasoned musician who has honed his playing and composing skills to a fine edge. Both attributes shine through on this enjoyable reminder of the music's gracious era."
"Eddie Green lived the jazz life in Philadelphia. The Willow Grove-born pianist was a quietly legendary figure, backing the soul hits of Billy Paul, fronting the fusion band Catalyst, and becoming the first-call local accompanist for jazz singers from Lou Rawls to Little Jimmy Scott.
Here on his last recording, his lines are models of soulful modesty and humor, casting the glow of a good friend's smile.
Vibraphonist Randy Sutin plays a bigger role than he might have had Green's health been better...Bassist Tyrone Brown of Max Roach's quintet and drummer Jim Miller, both longtime Green collaborators, are mainstays, helping Green rediscover 'Prayer Dance' from the Catalyst songbook.
The set covers some snazzy funk on 'Jazz Free' and includes some amusing moments, including 'Passi Flora,' with a Spanish vibe."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Ever the craftsman, though (Green) stayed out of the limelight and endeavored to make others sound good through his luminous accompaniments. Green would settle for nothing less than his best effort, no matter what the circumstances. Besides, 'Shades Of Green' would become his first album with strings, thanks to bassist Tyrone Brownís fervent interest in the possibilities of string ensembles.
The first and last impression of 'Shades Of Green' is Eddie Greenís generosity, as often he assigns to himself a democratic role as an equal member of the group while overseeing the project paternally. In particular, vibraphonist Randy Sutin claims as much time as Green on some of the tracks, such as the tribute to Greenís friend, 'All Of A Sutin,' a spirited blues. In fact, the first melodic instrument we hear on 'Shades Of Green' is the vibraphone, not Greenís piano. The listener is left with a glassier effect of a sheen hovering through the vibesí sustain combined with the sparkle of Greenís work on piano. The ensemble effect reaches its pinnacle on the final, dramatic number, the Green piece, 'Peace' (not to be associated with Horace Silverís tune of the same name), which pools all of the available resources to express acceptance and wishes for harmony, as sung with chilling effectiveness by Rosella Clemmons-Washington.
As a project consisting almost entirely of Greenís compositions, 'Prayer Dance' going back to his Catalyst days of the 1960ís, 'Shades Of Green' highlights Greenís broad interests and gives insight into his personality to a greater extent than previous albums. While opening with 'Marching Song' which gives drummer Jim Miller a chance to characterize the music as did Art Blakey on Benny Golsonís 'Blues March,' 'Shades Of Green' attains virid colors with 'On The Trail,' Ferde Grofeís popular visually suggestive musical description of leisurely horseback riding. This time, though, Green injects irresistible finger-snapping swing into the sway. 'Lift Every Voice' and 'Jazz Free' borrow inspiration from other famous songs, even as Green molds them into new shapes that arise from his distinctive talent and imagination.
Unlike previous albums that feature Eddie Green in small group improvisation or on which he makes singers like Rachelle Ferrell sound better than they would have without his piano accompaniment, 'Shades Of Green' is a showcase for Greenís ideas that previously were unexpressed on recordings, even though, gentlemanly as ever, he allows others to be in the foreground as they perform his music."
"...showcases and chronicles the prodigious writing and performing abilities of the late Eddie Green...this is his last work and serves as a reminder of his versatility and mastery. A well-liked, admired, and much credentialed mainstay of the Philadelphia music scene, Eddie wrote and performed with a passion that is reflected...in a remarkable mťlange of traditional jazz styles blended with the evocative richness of film music.
The opening 'Marching Song' treats us to a urban, Monkish parade of whimsical dissonance before launching us into some hard swinging solo work by Green, Sutin, and Brown. This is followed by 'Shades of Green,' (one of my favorites off the album) that recalls some of the classic influences of the '50s and '60s and provides a sound vehicle for some fine ensemble simpatico...
A funky 'Jazz Free' shows us yet another shade of Green with a creative interpolation of 'Freedom Jazz Dance' while making good use of the string section in a new context...
Greenís treatment of 'Lift Every Voice' in odd time may be radical but nonetheless spiritual for it. Once again, the generous pianist gives everyone a turn and the music gets passed around in typical Green fashion. Ferde Grofeís 'On the Trail' gets a funky face-lift that takes the years off.
The album closes out, fittingly, with the original composition, 'Peace.' Sung with great feeling and authority by Rosella Clemmons-Washington and underscored by ethereal strings, we are invited to contemplate such things as peace for it can be found. All you have to do is listen."
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