Belinda Underwood with special guest Benny Green at Steamers
Vocalist (and also bassist), Belinda Underwood made an anticipated return appearance to Steamers, January 26 th , bringing phenomenal pianist, Benny Green with her for a two night engagement. Rounding out the quartet was prevalent bassist, Dan Lutz and very sturdy time keeper, Kevin Kanner at the drums.
Not too far back, Belinda met Green at another musical setting, she told the Steamers audience. She wished she'd be able to work with him at a future time and later was surprised to be able to have the dream come to actuality. Benny Green is one of the top pianist in all of today's jazz scene and has already accomplished an amazing list of endeavors, including recording with major jazz artists as Oscar Peterson, Russell Malone (an ongoing project to share to audiences, their CD dedicated to late bassist Ray Brown), Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Betty Carter, Ray Brown, Freddie Hubbard, Diana Kral, and Milt Jackson to name a few. His musical influences are Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Hank Jones, Ahmad Jamal, Phineus Newborn, Bud Powell and definitely Oscar Peterson. He resides in New York, now many years, but grew up earlier in Berkeley, CA.
The Green trio opened with two delicious tunes, "Time After Time," neatly arranged and very smoothly performed. They played in a suave, but brisk two beat, then engaging a four beat time sequence. His piano work is full of tastily voiced chord progressions and impeccable right hand piano executions. Lutz captured the audience early on with his strong soloing followed with Kanner's definitive and illustrious solo rhythmic patterns. Randy Weston's "High Fly,"is a solid upbeat number and again Lutz and Kanner showed their wares in some awesome soloing.
Benny Green gave a nice introduction bringing Underwood to the stage. In this first set, my favorites of several, were the famous "Long Ago, and Far Away," "Blue Gardenia," and the wonderful "Invitation." She sings very alive, enunciates clearly and performs the lyrics brilliantly with a lot of feeling and emotion, moving beautifully with music. The audience was given to all of performing and stayed for almost all of the evening.
The second set gave the Green trio another opportunity playing the great standard, "When the Lights Are Low." Right away, I noticed shades of Oscar Peterson's style integrated in this smooth trio number. Their second selection - a Coltrane piece, "Moment's Notice," was played up tempo. Underwood joined to the stage giving us a pretty ballad, "While My Lady Sleeps," and the trio then backed her in the rhythmical beginning of "No Moon At All." Lutz and Kanner drove the quartet well as it went into a full swing. Green's amazing right hand solo endeavors accompanied by his grand and noble chord voicings sparkled this and other numbers of the evening. She sang her own composition, "Uncurling" from the same title of her CD of the same name with some very expressive lyrics. Other fine standards, "My One and Only Love," "The Shadow of Your Smile," and another Underwood original, "Seeing Red," also from her current CD, Uncurling closed the set.
A very worthwhile musical journey at Steamers was enjoyed by all. Check both Belinda Underwood's website: www.belindaunderwood.com and Benny Green's www.bennygreenmusic.com
-- Glenn A. Mitchell
For L.A. Jazz Scene, February, 2007 issue