cover The Salzau Quartett Live at JazzBaltica

Bunky Green
w/Eva Kruse, Carsten Daerr +
Nasheet Waits
The Salzau Quartett Live at JazzBaltica
20 JUN 2008

Traumton CD 4516
EAN/UPC 705304451625



  • 1. Tunex 12:06
  • 2. It could happen to you 14:14
  • 3. Little Girl I'll Miss You 10:07
  • 4. Another Place 11:48
  • 5. With All My Love 8:36
  • 6. Blues For Vienne 2:25


All compositions Bunky Green, except 2., James VanHeusen/Johnny Burke
Live recorded by NDR at Konzertscheune - Salzau, July 1, 2007
NDR producers: Axel Dürr & Stefan Gerdes
Recording engineer: Michael Plötz
Mixed & mastered by Wolfgang Loos, Traumton Studios, Berlin


Bunky Green alto saxophone
Carsten Daerr piano
Eva Kruse double bass
Nasheet Waits drums


In autumn 2006, I read a CD review in »DownBeat« which gripped my attention. Not simply because it was full of praise, more so because I had heard of all the sidemen, but not the leader of the »Another Place« album: saxophonist Bunky Green.
I started looking for the tape and the artist himself and told fellow musicians of my discovery. The CD was fantastic: it gripped me with its fervor, the drama of the saxophone, the likes of which I had never heard before and reminded of Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy all at once. And so, one day, I told Eva Kruse about my find with the remark that she – as others before her – probably would not know the name of this genius on the saxophone I had recognized so late. Her reply was different - Eva greeting my story by saying that this must be Bunky Green, whom she loved and cherished, and who was the composer of her favourite piece: »Little Girl I’ll Miss You«.
This brought me to follow his tracks and to invite him to Salzau. We met in January 2007 in New York and I was presented with a charming, sharp and curious person. It was in keeping with his human and artistic openness that he took me up on my suggestion to invite Eva Kruse and Carsten Daerr to his JazzBaltica performance in Salzau next to Nasheet Waits (who had featured on his CD already and was a popular JazzBaltica guest). It was a lucky coincidence. I have rarely seen a JazzBaltica rehearsal filled with such friendliness, openness and almost »blinding« understanding as this first meeting of these three artists on the early Sunday morning of the 1st of July 2007 in the Salzauer Schloss. It was in this first meeting that every separation by generations, cultural background and life experiences was forgotten. The concert the same day, captured on this recording, became a triumph (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung FAZ) of an artist, who, even at the age of 74, is one of the most exciting saxophonists of our time and is increasingly recognized as a force in modern jazz.
His legacy as a teacher has already won recognition. Critics of »Down Beat« voted him into the »Jazz Education Hall of Fame«, and his role as a ground-breaking musician has been underlined with the release of »Another Place« (his first CD in 14 years) and the JazzBaltica concert. When I heard the Salzauer recording together with Ornette Coleman in autumn 2007 in New York, his reaction was the final step in bringing out this CD: »This great concert should be published!«
Bunky Green, having already played as Charles Mingus’ sideman in the 60’s and earning an almost legendary reputation among his musician colleagues, celebrated more than a musical triumph in Salzau – unbelievable as it may seem, the concert was also his first in Germany. It was a chance he seized, the critics praising the man and his musical concept. Uli Olshausen described his sax playing in the FAZ: »He created glowingly vital de- and reconstructions of well-known themes like ›It Could Happen to You‹, a fire cracker of edgy ideas and brilliant technique. One could imagine a storm blasting all the leaves from a tree, then watching a film of it in reverse, until order was restored«

Rainer Haarmann

Künstlerischer Leiter



»Alto saxophonist Vernice ›Bunky‹ Green already had degrees from Northwestern University and Chicago State University in 1989, yet that's when he chose to go back to school while in his mid-50s.
To teach, that is. That school was the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, which hired Green as a professor on the strength of his instructional prowess at Chicago State. He'd started his teaching career there in 1972, in the midst of what's now a 48-year, 14-album solo recording catalog.
Professor Green, now 73, quickly ascended to his current position as Director of Jazz Studies within UNF's nationally-heralded program. That, combined with his most recent stellar release, the Label Bleu recording ›Another Place‹ (Green's first in 17 years), disproves the notion that »those who can do; those who can't teach.« »I actually play more now than before I started teaching,« he says. »In a school environment like this, I'm constantly playing, and these kids move fast. I've made sure that I had enough piano chops to play tunes with my students, too. That's important. I always have my students learning some basic piano. So they keep me on my toes, and I keep them on theirs.«
His learn-by-doing studiousness fits right into the music program at UNF. The school's faculty includes touring artists like pianist Lynne Arriale and drummer Danny Gottlieb.
»As Director of Jazz Studies, I only teach students one at a time,« Green says. »I have my office here, sure, but don't do a lot of administrative work, except for emails, which never let me rest. I do one-on-one teaching sessions with each student, so we get a chance to really get into it. In a class, you have to move at the speed of the entire class. If I have a student who's bright and can surge ahead, there's no speed limit.«
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Green's early self-teaching was advanced enough to allow him to replicate Charlie Parker's difficult solos while still in his teens. The underaged saxophonist then bravely got his first onstage experience by sneaking into Milwaukee clubs to sit in.
»I tell the kids that I'm a product of the street,« Green says. »And that I'm proud of that. I learned by trial and error. At 15, I could play everything that Bird ever recorded, verbatim. At 16, I had to paint on a fake mustache to get into clubs and play.«
The stage, he says, is where his real higher learning occured.
»My students know that playing here at school is not the real world,« Green says. »This is make-believe. They still have to learn to work and play together with other people in the moment, and that requires constant adjustment.«
Green moved to New York City in his late teens, and received a lesson both valuable and volatile when he replaced Jackie McLean for a stint in bassist Charles Mingus' band in 1960.
»[Saxophonist] Lou Donaldson told Mingus about me,« Green says, »Mingus was a disciplinarian, and very concerned about how you played his music. If you didn't play it the way he wanted, he'd let you have it no matter where, even on the bandstand. At my audition, he told me, ›This is your part, man,‹ and played it on the piano. It was difficult, because the intervals were abstract; almost atonal. I said, ›Do you have the music for this?‹ He said, ›Look, man, if I wrote it down, you'd never play it right!‹ I understood what he meant; played it back to him, and he smiled.«
»I learned part of what my style is based on from Mingus,« Green continues. »Part of what I'm known for stylistically is based on his approach. He told me that there was no such thing as a wrong note. I realized that he was talking about tension and release, where there has to be some sort of clash before a release. My style is based around that. You can play almost any note along with chords, as long as there's resolution.«
The Mingus lessons helped to prepare Green for an active playing/teaching career in Chicago, where he moved in 1960 and lived for nearly 30 years.
»One of the first people who gave me an opportunity to play in Chicago was Joe Segal, who owned the Jazz Showcase,« he says. »I got to play there with people like Johnny Griffin and Eric Dolphy. The city was on fire, so I decided to move there. When it comes to music, it certainly isn't the second city to New York.«
Green's reputation led to a session career that includes recordings with Elvin Jones, Clark Terry, Eddie Harris, Sonny Stitt and James Moody.
The teaching saxophonist and his wife of 40 years, Edith Green, still live in the same house they first moved into in Jacksonville. He says there was a culture shock upon arriving there. »You have the ocean, which is a nice diversion,« Green says. »But it certainly isn't Chicago. Everything was at my fingertips there. My intention was to come down here for a year and check out the UNF jazz program. I figured I could never leave Chicago. But in-between, something happened. I got some great students.«
»Another Place«, released in 2006, was Green's first recording since his poignant 1989 album »Healing the Pain«, which commemorated the death of his parents. Saxophonist and disciple Steve Coleman lured Green back into the studio and produced the disc. Pianist Jason Moran, bassist Lonnie Plaxico and drummer Nasheet Waits aid Green's close-to-the-edge urgency and soulful downshifts throughout.
»Steve has taken stylistic saxophone things that I've helped create to his own logical conclusion,« Green says. »I wasn't really hot on recording another album, 'cause I've been ripped off by so many record companies. But Steve said it wouldn't be like that, and talked me into it. I'm glad, because it gave my career a jump-start.«
A new Green recording led to new international tour dates. Playing the JazzBaltica festival in Germany last summer inadvertently led to his next CD.
»When I came over, I figured I'd be playing with people I knew,« he says. »But they paired me with some younger German players who are well-known in that area, and they play with a free approach! They learned the music really well, but played free. I had to be flexible to function in that environment. But that performance was judged one of the best in Germany in 2007 by »Jazzthetic« magazine, and the organizers called me about releasing the concert on CD. I'll be playing JazzBaltica again this July, then the North Sea Jazz festival, and by then the CD will be available on the German label Traumton Records.«
Still, Green is arguably better-known as an educator than musician. He was president of the International Association of Jazz Educators from 1990-1992, and was inducted into the IAJE Hall of Fame in 1999. During his 18 years at UNF, the school has risen in stature among national jazz institutions.
»We have parents calling from Wisconsin and Michigan, and bringing their kids down here to audition,« Green says. »It's a wonderful faculty; great people. We're like a family. If we have a conflict, we talk about it, work it out, and make things better.« Green is even considering working on a follow-up instructional book to his »Inside Outside«, published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz in 1988.
»That's still selling after all these years,« he says. »About five years ago, Jamey said, ›Why don't you do another book‹ I have another one in me. Like Mozart, it's already written - in my head! I won't give the exact angle yet. I'll just say that saxophone players play a certain way, generally. There's another way to approach voicings on the instrument. I'll come from that angle.«
The underrated, understated and rejuvenated Green laughs when the subject turns to a fan site dedicated to him, the Society for the Promulgation of the Music of Bunky Green (SPMBG) on MySpace. Founded in Jersey City, New Jersey in 2006, the site has more than 150 members and the subtitle »Bunky Green Kicks Ass!«
»Someone told me about that, but I haven't seen it yet,« he says. »I bet that's David Carey, a former student of mine who's very dear to me and lives in that area. He may have recruited some of my other students who've graduated through the years«
JazzTimes | Bunky Green | June Issue