A Review of Merge by the Chris Greene Quartet
Chris Greene Quartet
Single Malt Recordings (2009)
[CQG is: Chris Greene tenor & soprano sax, Damian Espinosa—piano + keyboards, Marc Piane—double bass, Tyrone Blair—drums & percussion.]
One of my favorite young jazz crews is back. With “Merge,” their third album in almost as many years, The Chris Greene Quartet lead by tenor + soprano saxophonist Chris Greene, continues to bring tight, high-end musicianship combined with a floetic mastery of good song structure.
And where CGQ’s Soul & Science series was more divergent and aggressive in its inspirations, drawing from all manner of funk, soul, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Mingus and more, Merge is about a smoother quieter progression of play.
Nine songs deep including 4 Chris Greene compositions, Merge showcases not only some of Chris Greene’s cleanest most refined playing yet but also pianist Damiam Espinosa's strongest work. While the highlight of the album might be the Greene-composed "Coffee n Scotch" for its energy and flavor, my fave cut might be "L. F. E. I. (Let's Get it Started),” an unusual take on the very recent Black Eyed Peas, joint. I just love the way it builds from a groove to a dance between CG’s horn-work and Tyrone Blair's great drum rhythms. It’s like a boxing match of jabs and quick footwork. I also loved the melodic piano work on Out Of Nowhere; the Billly Strayhorn composition Lotus Blossom feels fresh as well.
As much as you may be temped to make Merge yet another “background” album, I kept finding myself rewinding to various tracks to catch the intricate playing and fluidness that’s going on on nearly every song on Merge. I’m guessing you will, too. These guys are serious players.
Overall, Merge is a fun vibrant jazz album that’s got a ton of smart playing without going over your head. Instead it draws you in, gives you some great rhythms and flow combined with strong playing from every member in the band. Merge is just one more reminder to jazz fans everywhere why the Chris Greene Quartet is still on the rise.
You can find CGQ’s work on iTunes, Amazon.com/ChrisGreene and at chrisgreenejazz.com or twitter.com/chrisgreenejazz or www.reverbnation.com/chrisgreenejazz