May 2009

Jimmy Greene - Mission Statement
Razdaz Records SSC4608
Format: CD
Released: April 2009

by Bob Strain

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

Mission Statement is 34-year-old Jimmy Greene’s seventh offering as leader. That in itself is remarkable, but Greene -- a former student of Jackie McLean and collaborator with such luminaries as Horace Silver, Tom Harrell, Avishai Cohen, and Freddie Hubbard -- also displays formidable performing and composing skills, resulting in a CD of rare quality.

As with 2006’s True Life Stories, Greene is joined here by Xavier Davis on keyboards, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Eric Harland on drums, excellent musicians who have worked with him since 2002, and by Lage Lund on guitar. Stefon Harris guests on vibraphone on one cut, "Revelation."

Except for the final track, Greene composed all the music on this CD. It is urbane, sophisticated, and complex, constructed around spiky melodies and edgy post-bop harmonies. Despite this, it is quite accessible. The rhythmic flow is subtle and understated, and the musicians as a unit treat the material contrapuntally, with interlocking phrases that bring Afro-Cuban clave to mind. This creates a spaciousness that allows the solos and backing to emerge and recede in an organic way, from the driving title-tune opener to the dreamscape "Love in Action."

Throughout, Greene’s soloing is impeccable, bringing to mind such landmarks as John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, nowhere more than in the keening "Trials." As with Coltrane, a spiritual perspective pervades Greene’s music, filling it with conviction.

Greene draws beautiful tone from both the tenor and soprano instruments. Overall, the audio quality is intimate, beautifully balanced, and present. The first sound -- a crystalline cymbal hit coupled with a rim shot --- commands the listener’s full and immediate attention and quickly segues into a beguiling intro to "Mission Statement." Each of the musicians is offered ample space to solo, and the mix adjusts seamlessly to each instrument in turn.

The concluding track is an exuberant rendering of Harry Smith’s "Give Thanks." For this CD, it’s appropriate. Thanks, Jimmy Greene. Mission accomplished.