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The Chris Greene Quartet

Chris Greene Chris Greene
Chris Greene describes his quartet and their music with a few phrases that takes audiences into the heart of the band, "We’re a small band of only four members. We don’t require a large light show, pre-recorded tracks or a super fancy PA system to give a good show. Each one of the members of the band is proficient in multiple musical styles, and each is among the best in the city at their respective instruments. However, this would all be for naught if we didn’t play together as a unit or with a common purpose."

The quartet’s purpose hooks up the electro-funk grooves of the body’s natural movements to the smooth jazz esthetics of the soul’s rhythm. By unifying these two parts the Chris Greene Quartet, which comprises of Greene on saxophone, Marc Piane on bass, Tyrone Blair on drums, and Damian Espinosa on piano, establishes an alluring harmony. The group’s latest release, Soul And Science 2: Electric Boogaloo is a nexus of these two paths as Greene explains, "The Chris Greene Quartet is a natural outgrowth of an electric jazz-funk band I’d led for 10 years, Chris Greene and New Perspective. We’d released 2 albums, On the Verge and Jazz, to critical acclaim. I was looking to express the same funky and jazzy viewpoint but in a more acoustic setting. Damian Espinosa, had played in New Perspective for 3 years, so he was my first and only choice to play piano. Marc Piane (bassist, co-producer) and I had played in several bands together on and off for about 10 years, so he was my first any only choice to play acoustic bass. Tyrone Blair and I knew of each other through mutual acquaintances but had never played together until Marc had contracted us both to play with him at a private event. We hit it off immediately musically and personally. I started looking for gigs for the CGQ right away."

He recalls, "Our first gig as the CGQ was at a small bar in Evanston, Illinois called Bistro 1800 in September of 2005. We didn’t have much of a repertoire, so we mainly played jazz classics and standards. And the musical chemistry that comes with playing night after night hadn’t developed yet, but it was fun, and the potential could be heard. Today, I can honestly say that when I’m on stage with Damian, Marc and Tyrone, I truly feel like I’m at home."

He tells about the quartet’s new album, "We had actually recorded the bulk of Soul and Science 2 during the same sessions that produced Volume One. When we assembled Vol. 1, we discovered that the tunes that were left over were of a funkier and more groove-oriented that the songs. Damian also tended to play more electric piano than acoustic piano on the Vol. 2 tracks. So, we went back into the studio and cut more material in the same vein."

He reveals, "I came with the titles Soul and Science: Volume One and Soul and Science 2: Electric Boogaloo. All of the musicians and artists that we hold in high esteem had a nice balance between the intellectual and visceral. The ‘soul’ part is self-explanatory. The ‘science’ part refers to the intellectual and studious of making music. We - I and my band mates - are constantly challenging ourselves to be better at what we do individually and collectively. To us, the brain AND the heart are both important in making timeless music."

The quartet’s song "Bonnie" from the album shows the group’s artistry for smooth jazz appeal and spikes of electro currents. "Bonnie" is a song written by Tommy Turrentine, brother of tenor saxophone legend Stanley Turrentine," Greene provides. "When I started listening to jazz seriously as an adolescent, one of the first albums I borrowed from my dad’s collection was the 1969 Blue Note Records release, Hot Dog by alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson. ‘Bonnie’ is the lone ballad from that album. I always loved the melody and chord changes of that song. I always said that if I were to record an acoustic jazz album, I would record that song for it."

But the quartet stirs up the reaction with the funkedified number "4.23" which Greene extracts, "’4.23’ was written as a tribute to my lovely fiancée, Sarah. The quirkiness of the melody and the harmonic progression came to me fairly quickly, but the song wouldn’t be what it is without the musicianship and creativity of my bandmates. I don’t like to micro-manage. When I write or adapt something for the band, I simply tell them what kind of feel or style I desired for a song. After that they usually take the proverbial ball and ran with it. Plus, they offer helpful suggestions to enhance the musical arrangement. As the leader it’s up to me to shape the final result."

Released by Single Malt Recordings, Greene’s own label, he comments about any rules or expectations placed on the band during the recording, "Heavens, no. I’m a jazz musician, but I like a lot of different types of music. Heck, I was a fanatic for Prince and Public Enemy before I knew anything about John Coltrane. Lately, I’ve been listening to Sonny Rollins (jazz tenor legend) and Sly and the Family Stone. It’s all going to come out in my playing and writing. It’s important to me that I express myself as honestly and as unfiltered as possible. Of course, it helps that I own the label that I record for!!!"

Having a record label offered Greene the opportunity to bring his music, which has dabbled in making since he was a child, to the public as he recollects, "I’d always make up little songs in my head since I was a kid. I’m sure my family thought I was nuts! Taking theory classes in high school and studying music in college only enhanced my desire to want to compose. I guess I’m trying to write the songs that I’ve always wanted to hear. It may sound cocky and a little crazy, but it’s the truth."

He summarizes, "I’ve been playing the saxophone for 25 years now. I started playing when I was 10. It’s a cool looking instrument, and the ladies like it. That’s good enough for me. Seriously, I like the saxophone, because I can play it in just about any musical situation that arises."

The transitional phases that stream the different musical settings of Greene’s life have served him well as he reflects, "I’ve learned from every single musical experience that I’ve had. I know recording these last 2 albums have been some of the least-stressful times leading a session in the studio. Marc (bassist, co-producer) was a godsend."

He expresses, "From some situations, I’ve learned how to run a band and a business. And from others, I’ve learned how to run a band or business into the ground. There’s a lesson in everything."

He imparts, "It’s been said that good composers borrow, but great composers steal. I’ve stolen from some of the best around: Ed Motta, Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Greg Osby, Little Brother, Marcus Miller, Yellowjackets, Roy Ayers, D’Angelo, etc., etc."

And then sometimes, the music happens while the band is jamming and trading off ideas and harmonies. Greene notes about those moments, "We try to save the jamming for the stage. I think our audiences actually prefer it that way. I like it that way because it keeps things fresh for me, the band and the audience. Ideas for songs and arrangements pop into my head all the time. I’m always jotting ideas down on music staff paper and refining them in my home studio/office. It’s a constant process."

Greene’s aspirations for the band, he pledges, is to attain, "National and international touring, more recording, producing and recording other artists the sky truly is the limit."

Helping the Chris Greene Quartet to achieve that level of recognition is the Internet. He attributes the current conditions in the music industry to the Worldwide Web and claims, "It has changed the music industry. There are a lot more avenues available to the independent musician. Building an audience for what you do is still challenging, but there are more tools available to help you do so. Somewhere across the globe is a person in another country who wants to hear your music. I don’t know where I’d be without,, MySpace and a host of other great sites."

The Chris Greene Quartet is on the path to worldwide recognition, and is working to stay on that course. Their latest release, Soul and Science 2: Electric Booglaoo has ribbons of music that moves to the natural rhythms of people’s bodies and souls. The songs offer satisfaction and comfort, and let’s life progress along its transitional phases wherever that may lead the Chris Greene Quartet.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Chris Greene
  • Interview Date: 8/1/2008
  • Subtitle: Unifying The Body And Soul
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