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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Magic Beans

Sunnyside SSC 1338



1. Benny's Crib
2. Kenny Drew
3. Flying Saucer
4. Jackie McLean
5. Vanished
6. Harold Land
7. Magic Beans
8. Paraphrase
9. La Portuguesa
10. Further Away

Benny Green - Piano
Peter Washington - Bass
Kenny Washington - Drums


I have always thought that pianist Benny Green was most comparable to Oscar Peterson in swing and technique. Yet I was surprised to find a strong influence from Thelonious Monk on this album. I had overlooked the fact that in 2011 Benny launched a touring project called "Monk's Dream: 50 Years Fresh". And when he was a child, Benny often heard his father playing records by Thelonious Monk as well as Charlie Parker and Ray Charles.

In fact Benny launches into the first track with the unstoppable power of Oscar Peterson. He says in the sleeve-notes that he tries to emulate the Blue Note recordings of the fifties and sixties, with their winning combination of trumpet and sax. Benny played with just such a group - Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers - in the late 1980s, and his playing is clearly influenced by their ardour.

This album consists entirely of Benny's own compositions. The second track, a loping tribute to the pianist Kenny Drew, reinforces the feeling that Benny's work is imbued with the blues. The next few tracks show a definite Monkish influence, from the jerky Flying Saucer via the ballad Vanished with its Thelonious-like chords to the obliqueness of Harold Land (another tribute to a saxophonist).

The title-track is more straightforward, starting with a Latin-American feel before going into swinging 4/4 time. We return to a strong Monk influence with Paraphrase, whose chords and structure might have been created by Thelonious himself. Peter Washington contributes shapely bass solos to this and several other tracks, while he and drummer Peter Washington give Benny Green solid support throughout the album, although the drums are sometimes barely audible.

La Portuguesa is an attractively lyrical ballad. The final Further Away starts and ends with a Latin beat, book-ending a subtly swinging 4/4. Compared with some of his earlier work (such as with the Ray Brown Trio), the predominant mood of this album is low-key, which may not appeal to those who liked Benny's more extrovert style. Personally, I like both.

Tony Augarde

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