Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Obituary - Bob Greene

Magazine article IAJRC Journal

Obituary - Bob Greene

Article excerpt

When Bob Greene died on October 13, 2012, at the age of 91, jazz lost one of the most authentic practitioners of the music of Jelly Roll Morton.

Born in New York on September 4, 1922, Greene's first career was as a writer of radio and, later, television documentaries. He won a Writer's Guild award on three occasions and his 1952 book on Television Writing was reported to be a standard text during the early days of television. At Columbia University he taught script writing and he also worked as a documentary writer for The Voice of America. A number of his scripts were published, including Abraham Lincoln. In 1998 Jupiter released Blum-San, Greene's biography of agent and Japanese scholar, Paul Blum.

The attention to detail which Greene gave to his writing he also gave to his piano playing and to his love for the music of Jelly Roll Morton. However, his interest in jazz began with the swing bands and he retained a lifelong admiration for the playing of Jess Stacy, as he wrote in 1974: "It was his piano that got me interested in jazz piano when I was about 15, listening to the Goodman band. There was something about the way he played that touched me. He had the knack of making a single note beautiful. He didn't need a lot of notes. There was beauty and form in his playing and that wonderful sound he got when he hit a note he loved and gave it a tremolo. He just plays good notes at the right time, with that special touch of his. He felt about a piano the way Bix felt about the comet. It should be beautiful - and hot."

At a party Greene met Bob Wilber. "Wilber asked me if I had heard Jelly Roll Morton [he hadn't] and said, 'You ought to; it would be a natural style for you.' ... I went down to the Commodore Music Shop and they sold me the New Orleans Memories album on General." From that meeting and that purchase came sixty years of dedication to Mr Jelly Lord.

Greene was active on the New York jazz scene in the early 1950s, recording, in a junior capacity, with the Conrad Janis band (Circle) and with Sidney De Paris on Blue Note. His short solo on the Janis version of Kansas City Stomps, recorded in 1950, confirms the soundness of Wilber's suggestion. In the 1960s his records included dates with Jim Robinson, Zutty and the Clarinet Kings, and Johnny Wiggs, in addition to duets with Don Ewell for Fat Cat's Jazz. There was also a quartet session with Ernie Carson from 1964 issued on Delmark. He was present at the 1968 Manassas Jazz Festival, leading his International New Orleans Jazz Band, including Yoshio Toyama, Orange Kellin and Zutty Singleton, and in 1969 he featured Morton solos at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and again in 1972 at the Newport Jazz Festival. …

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