A Tribute in Jazz

It’s always been easy to bash the record business because, let’s face it, they deserve it. Too many broken dreams. Too many people cheated out of money. Too much emotional wreck and ruin, and I say this knowing that most musicians come to it fully aware that the intersection of art meets commerce is, by its very definition, a cruel and dangerous place.

Yet, there’s a recent recording project that I have to say exemplifies that there are still human hearts beating in the biz.

Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene, a solid, productive player on the New York scene, lost his daughter Ana who was six in that colossal piece of bad parenting, the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. How teaching a profoundly disturbed child to use automatic weapons was going to help him escapes me, but 20 first graders and six adults paid the price. The emotional devastation and shattering grief left behind was immense and for outsiders, unknowable. Yet David and Norman Chesky and Mack Avenue Records as well as members of New York’s jazz community came together and with Greene as the leader recorded Beautiful Life in remembrance and celebration of Ana Greene.

This is not a commercial venture, but an act of love towards Greene and his daughter. The list of artists involved tells the story: Kenny Barron, Cyrus Chestnut, Javier Colon, Kurt Elling, Renee Rosnes, Pat Metheny and Christian McBride among others. The Linden Christian School Early Years Choir and the musicians of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra also added their voices. Best of all, Greene the composer has reached inside and made something very beautiful out of his unimaginable sadness. Ana herself appears vocally in the opening track “Saludos/Come Thou Almighty King” which also features Greene, Metheny and Ana’s brother, Isaiah. Her face is also on the CD.

Well recorded mostly by engineer Nicholas Prout, the album, which was released on Mack Avenue Records and was produced for that label by Gretchen Valade and Al Pryor is solid all the way through and can easily stand on its own as just another jazz record. On “When I Come Home” vocalist Javier Colon brings in a bravura performance that’s more than a little reminiscent of Stevie Wonder. And a slow Greene/Barron duo on “Where is Love?” the Lionel Bart tune from the musical Oliver! is heartbreaking. But this is not a sad record. Much hope shines through. Much love shines through. And in this inspired music, Ana lives on.

Allen Fant's picture

Many Thanks! RB for pointing out this release. Top-notch performers on this one. I will add it to my must-buy list.

philipjohnwright's picture

I have a six hour solo drive later today, courtesy of Tidal I think I've just found myself a companion for the journey (although I can see myself buying it as well).

Everest Audio's picture

I have been listening to this since it came out and it is a wonderful project with a stellar lineup of musicians an excellent sound quality.

matt123's picture

Really? That phrase, I think, detracts from your article, and the spirit of this project. I don't pretend to know the specific cause of what happened - I don't think anyone can really understand it, and I certainly don't want to argue with anyone about it on the streophile blog. I simply think you should have left that out.

volvic's picture

I think about these children and that horrible day often, as well as my disdain for the 2nd amd't & NRA and find the release of this CD a moving tribute to Ana, Mr. Greene and those in the music industry who made this project possible. Will definitely be purchasing.