Danny Green – What’s on Your Playlist?

April 8, 2016

danny-greenSan Diego-based pianist and composer Danny Green has earned a reputation as one of the most lyrical young pianists to emerge from the West Coast. His music showcases an engaging blend of jazz, Brazilian, Latin, and classical influences and draws in listeners with evocative melodies and infectious rhythms. 

Green began playing piano as a young boy, but at the age of 12 became immersed in grunge and spent two years teaching himself Nirvana tunes before discovering ska, forming a band, and learning to improvise. Green later became immersed in Latin jazz, earning a Bachelor’s degree in piano performance from UCSD where he studied jazz piano with Grammy-winning producer Kamau Kenyatta. A class on Brazilian music at UCSD turned his passion southwards. He attended California Brazil Camp and credits legendary guitarist/composer Guinga, pianist Marcos Silva, guitarist/composer Chico Pinheiro, and drummers Edu Ribeiro and Marcio Bahia as particularly important influences. Green later went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Jazz Studies at San Diego State University, where he studied under Rick Helzer. He has released four recordings as a leader and maintains a busy performance schedule as leader of the Danny Green Trio. The band’s new recording Altered Narratives (OA2 Records), features Green’s strikingly beautiful compositions and elegant pianism.

Green’s most recent album, Altered Narratives, was released on March 18. www.dannygreen.net.

1. Aaron Goldberg – Home 

I recently say Aaron Goldberg perform with his trio and was absolutely blown away. Since the performance, I’ve been listening quite a bit to this album. To me, it has the perfect blend of detailed arrangement and exploration. I love Goldberg’s originals on the album, especially “The Rules,” and I also enjoy his covers of some great songs including Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Luiza” and Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” This album will definitely be on my playlist for some time, and I’m sure I’ll be picking up some great ideas from listening to it.

2. Alexandre Andrés – Macaxeira Fields

I initially found out about vocalist/guitarist/flutist Alexandre Andrés through André Mehmari, who plays piano on this album and is the artistic director. With twenty-five musicians on the album, the music is nothing short of amazing, and the arrangements are some of the best I’ve heard of any recording. There’s a wonderful variety of styles and meters on this album and two huge bonuses are the appearances of vocalists Tatiana Parra and Monica Salmaso. Some of the songs such as “Um Som Azul” put me on a high, while others like “A Voz de Todos Nós” put me in a total state of trance. It’s all great!

3. Brad Mehldau – 10 Years Solo Live

I’ve been a huge fan of Brad Mehldau since I first heard him in the early 2000s. Beyond his incredible technique, touch, and independence, what keeps me coming back to his recordings and concerts is the pure emotion that he puts into his music. This album is a four-disc set, comprised of solo piano recordings from live performances in Europe over the span of ten years. I remember hearing Mehldau perform his medley of “Zingaro” and “Paris” years ago at Largo in Los Angeles as well as “Junk.” Those songs stuck in my mind for quite some time, and I was so happy to hear them again on this album. I’m still making my way through this massive collection of music, and enjoying every minute of it. Another huge bonus on this album are Mehldau’s liner notes, which are a great read throughout.

4. Chico Pinheiro – Meia Noite – Meio Dia

It’s hard to choose one Chico Pinheiro album to put on this list because they are all so great. Pinheiro is an amazing guitarist and composer, not to mention one of the nicest people I’ve met. The songs on this album all have the quality of great classics, and at the same time, they offer something fresh and innovative. While there are quite a few killer solos throughout the album, I’d say the main focus is on the songs themselves. Pinheiro is joined by some amazing guest vocalists including Maria Rita (daughter of Elis Regina), Luciana Alves, and Ed Motta. Pinheiro’s released several albums since this one, and I’d highly recommend them all.

5. Fred Hersch – Solo

I first came across the music of Fred Hersch in college when I was studying with pianist/producer Kamau Kenyatta. In the world of solo jazz piano, I would say few other pianists compare to Hersch (Mehldau and Andre Mehmari would be the other two at the top of my list). Hersch has such a beautiful and elegant touch, an incredibly deep harmonic vocabulary, and he truly makes every note count. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this album from Hersch for the purpose of transcribing “Pastorale” and “Whirl” for a book of Hersch transcriptions. The recording quality is fantastic, I love the tune selections, and I feel like I learn something new every time I put it on.

6. Hamilton de Holanda – Brasilianos

This album is a longtime favorite of mine. Mandolinist Hamilton de Holanda leads a fantastic group of musicians on this album, including one of my favorite Brazilian drummers, Marcio Bahia. The compositions unfold much like stories, with multiple sections, vamps, tags, and builds. The playing on this album is about as tight as it can get. All the musicians are incredible virtuosos on their instruments. It’s hard not to move when I listen to this album, and it’s always a go to on late-night drives home.

7. Josh Nelson – Exploring Mars

I first met Josh Nelson around ten years ago at a concert he played with guitarist Peter Sprague. I’ve been listening to his albums ever since, and I never get tired of them. Aside from being a killer pianist, Nelson is a first-rate composer and arranger. This album is his latest work, and as far as concept albums go, I think he knocked this one out of the park. The opening track includes a reading from Bill Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles – a great setup for imagining Mars as the rest of the album progresses. My favorite tracks are “Spirit” and “How You Loved Me On Mars.” It’s been great hearing Nelson’s music evolve over the years, and I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

8. Richard Wagner – Die Walküre (Metropolitan Opera Conducted by James Levine)

My grandfather was a major fan of Wagner operas, and several months after he passed away, I discovered his Wagner collection which included a DVD set of the Ring Cycle. It took a while for me to get into the music, but once I caught the bug, I was hooked. To say that Wagner’s operas takes patience is an understatement, but to me, the emotional impact of listening to an entire act straight through is a feeling that is unparalleled. I think one of the most genius things about Wagner’s operas (especially his later works) is how he integrates the music and story together. At some points, I feel as though the music is able to say what cannot be put into words. Die Walküre has remained one of my favorite Wagner operas.

9. Tatiana Parra – Inteira

When it comes to vocalists, Tatiana Parra is hard to beat. She has such a beautiful voice and bares so much soul and vulnerability in her singing. Her pitch and phrasing are impeccable, and I love how tastefully she uses her vibrato. Aside from her incredible singing, what makes me keep coming back to this album is the music and the production. It has a perfect blend of jazz and pop elements. The songs contain what I love so much about Brazilian music in general – beautiful melodies and lush harmonies. 

10. Trio Corrente – Volume 2

As far as Brazilian jazz goes, I would put this album right at the top. Comprised of pianist Fabio Torres, bassist Paulo Paulelli, and drummer Edu Ribeiro (my other favorite Brazilian drummer), this trio plays a mix of originals and arrangements of Brazilian classics. The grooves are killing, the arrangements are so enjoyable to listen to, and what I love most about the group is how well they interact with each other. Trio Corrente will be releasing Volume 3 in the near future, and I’m sure it will be just as great!

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