Thirty-something-year-old Chicago-based saxophonist, composer and bandleader Chris Greene is no overnight sensation. He has paid his dues on the Chicago club scene since the early 90’s, playing in bands like The Trippin’ Billies and Kevin O’Donnell’s Quality Six, and freelanced on the city’s rich jazz scene. He studied at Indiana University, home of one of the country’s strongest Jazz Studies Programs, and formed his first band, Chris Greene and New Perspective, in 1994. That band performed regularly, and released two albums of what Greene calls “electric jazz/funk/hip-hop/fusion” music, “On The Verge” (1998) and “jazz” (2004). In 2005 he formed his current unit, The Chris Greene Quartet (or “CGQ”), a band that has maintained a stable roster since its inception.
CGQ features Greene on tenor and soprano saxophone, Damian Espinosa on primarily acoustic piano (but also occasionally on electric keyboard), Marc Piane on acoustic bass and drummer Tyrone Blair. The CGQ has forged a unique sonic identity through the immediate personal chemistry these four remarkable musicians discovered when they first played together, and through subsequent steady work. In many ways, as Greene designed the band to be, they are a throwback to the classic Blue Note label jazz units - bands that featured stable personnel, hard-swinging and thought-provoking music, with a sensibility that was at one time rooted in the popular culture but was very definitely high-concept art; in other words, music for both body and mind.
The new cd, “Merge”, follows in the footsteps of the CGQ’s “Soul and Science: Volume One” and “Soul and Science 2: Electric Boogaloo”. The track list for Merge includes a healthy serving of Greene’s original compositions, as well as a tune by pianist Espinosa, jazz standards by Billy Strayhorn and Johnny Green, and one tune each by Madonna and The Black-Eyed Peas. Recorded in 2009 at Experimental Sound Studios in Chicago, the cd captures a working band at the height of its powers, with all of the telepathic communication that only a working ensemble can marshal. Greene’s influences, from Sonny Rollins to Maceo Parker, electric Miles to Prince, are clearly evident, as well is the fact that he has become his own man. Although it is definitely Greene’s band and conception, Espinosa, Piane and Blair are by no means mere sidemen; the blueprint for the band allows – in fact, demands – equal contributions from all chairs. While all of the guys have deep roots in the history of jazz, they also do not deny that they grew up with the sounds of pop, rock, funk, r&b, hip-hop and the blues in their ears. A Jazz at the Philharmonic blowing session this ain’t.
The CGQ continues to be one of the busiest working bands in Chicago, performing regularly at places like M Lounge, Pete Miller’s, Andy’s Jazz Club, Red Kiva, and most recently at that holy grail of Windy City jazz joints, The Jazz Showcase. They are steadily earning a reputation as one of Chicago’s most exciting ensembles. Greene is becoming known as one of the city’s finest rising instrumentalists. Catch them locally while you can!