Busy and blessed

Jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene returns to Israel with some feel-good music - and seven albums under his belt.

Jimmy Greene 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Jimmy Greene 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
They say you can't keep a good man down. And 33-year-old jazz saxophonist Jimmy Greene is among the busier members of his profession, playing gigs across the globe, putting out records like there's no tomorrow and even attending to his local church's musical needs. Still, this week he will find time in his crowded schedule to fit in a five-date tour of Israel (June 17-21) with three local musicians. Greene has been here on two previous occasions - the last time was in 2005 as a member of trumpeter Tom Harrell's band at the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eilat. He has also enjoyed a fair number of collaborations with Israelis over the years and says he feels some affinity with this country and the musicians we produce. "There are some great jazz musicians from Israel," he says in a telephone interview from his home in Connecticut. "I have played with [bassist] Omer Avital, [trombonist] Avi Lebovich, [saxophonist-clarinetist] Anat Cohen and [Anat's trumpet playing brother] Avishai Cohen and [saxophonist] Eli Degibri." Greene's closest Israeli working relationship is with stellar bassist Avishai Cohen. "I played on three of Avishai's albums. He has done some wonderful things over the years. He is very popular, and rightly so." In fact, Greene's latest recording, The Overcomers Suite, is due out on Cohen's RazDaz label next week. This is his seventh release as leader since Introducing Jimmy Greene came out in 1997. It is an impressive work rate. "I'm excited about the things I'm doing, and I am blessed to have more opportunities than most to record," Greene observes with typical understatement. The saxophonist is also appreciative of his home base - in physical and musical terms. "The music I came up loving still holds the most power for me. I believe jazz is the kind of music that makes you want to move." Indeed, despite the rhythmic intricacies of modern jazz which developed in the 1940s, the idiom started out as dance music. "I have elements of the roots in what I do, although it may not always be that obvious. But I like to see people tapping a foot or moving their head at my gigs. The dance element is the most important thing in jazz, and people have to be able to get and dig the rhythm." Greene will certainly be conveying some of that feel-good element in his forthcoming shows here. Part of the repertoire will come from his own expanding oeuvre, but there will be interpretations of numbers by master songwriter Cole Porter in the program, too. Greene is happy to perform popular numbers, in addition to his own somewhat more challenging jazz material. "Cole Porter wrote really good songs, and there is nothing wrong with entertainment. There should be something joyful in the music you do. I have been blessed in my life so far and I like to give something back - like the gospel music I do with my church. I'm sure we'll have funs with our gigs in Israel." Jimmy Greene will play with pianist Guy Zohar, bass player Gilad Abro and drummer Shay Zelman at the Camelot Club in Herzliya on June 17 at 10 p.m.; Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem on June 18 at 9 p.m.; Tel Aviv Museum on June 19 at 9 p.m. and on June 20 at 9:30 p.m.; and at Abba Hushi House in Haifa on June 21 at 9 p.m.