San Diago born composer/pianist Danny Green has been influenced by many styles of music over the years. From early adventures into grunge rock, listening and learning to play Nirvana tunes, through to studying and developing a passion for Latin Jazz, in particular guitarist/composer Guinga, and on to a deep love of 19th century European classical music, including Wagner, Mahler and Ravel. It is perhaps this rich tapestry of sound that has led him to take all these influences on board and develop his own style of writing and performing. What is quite striking about “Altered Narratives” is the freedom with which the musicians appear to approach things; this being largely a jazz trio album – and one of the finest I have heard this year. A string quartet features on three of the tracks mid-way through the album, and again the arrangements and performances are a pleasure to behold. Despite the pianist’s wide-ranging influences (or indeed, because of, I should actually say), this is very much a jazz album in the clearest of contexts; great writing, great musicianship, great vibe. Sounds simple, but it rarely is. The moods and grooves created are stimulating to the ear, with the pianist’s melodies and lyrical approach to music making ringing out in joyous fashion. There’s a wonderful feel to the whole session, and although jazz is at the core of it all, there are plenty of musical flavours that enrich the recording; blues, Latin, swing, classical and contemporary folk being just some that I would highlight. The tunes themselves are like short stories, with each and every tale branching off, sometimes sincere and in ernest, sometimes playful and adventurous, yet always with a consummate skill and passion.
“Altered Narratives” is Green’s fourth album release. Making up his trio are drummer Julien Cantelm and bassist Justin Grinnell. And it is in fact Grinnell’s bass riff that pulls the listener in on the opening track “Chatter From All Sides”, a deliciously bluesy number. The feel of the tune, and indeed, the riff itself, immediately reminded me of an old Hancock/Metheny/DeJohnette track from their surprisingly little-known scorcher of an album “Parallel Realities”. As with the vast majority of “Altered Narratives”, it is the skill of the drums and bass that add so much to this tune. And when Green plays the blues, the piano shimmers with a gorgeous, infectious life-giving resonance that rewards the listener with all of its depth and beauty. “The Merge” is a tune that is so full of lyrical spirit, it just flows effortlessly, textural and colourful in its themes, as if in pursuit of something that can never quite be found, searching, twisting, turning, The evocative “October Ballad” embodies the pianist’s gift for crafting emotionally evocative motifs. Inspiration often comes from many directions, and the late night gin joint reverie of “I used to hate the blues” came out of a concert Green participated in, along with Southern Californian jazz scene officianados the brothers Sprague, where everyone agreed to bring in tunes pertaining to the theme “Things I love that I used to hate”. The three tunes at the centre of the album offer up a change of style somewhat. Whilst on some levels one could argue they seem a little out-of-place in the context of the album as a whole, the strings add a different dimension, and are arranged and performed in such a skillful way that one can’t argue with the quality of the resulting pieces of music. The most intricate and beautifully unsettling of these tunes, “Katabasis”, takes its name from a Greek literary term that can refer to visiting the underworld. From the darkness there is light, visionary and real. There’s plenty more riveting and exploratory trioism yet to be heard though, with the threesome on fine form, intelligent, intuitive and inspirational. And then it’s back to the blues that the pianist clearly now loves, for the closing track “Serious Fun”, a kind of bar-room boogie meets manically depressed effervescent and over-the-top party clown…kind of tune.
Danny Green and co. deserve recognition for this album. A proper trio, making great music together. The development of Green as a writer and performer is perhaps explained best by the man himself; “I have always been the type to immerse myself in one genre of music, artist or composer for months to years at a time. From Nirvana, ska, and Latin Jazz, to Brazilian music, straight ahead jazz and Wagner operas, all these different musical phases that I went through helped shape who I am as a pianist and composer”. May your journey continue on Mr Green. I look forward to hearing the musical delights you create in the future.