Beau­ti­ful and bit­ter­sweet

Jazz mu­si­cian Jimmy Greene has mixed emo­tions about Grammy nom­i­na­tions

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - FRONT PAGE - By Alan Small alan.small@freep­ Twit­ter: @AlanDS­mall

SAX­O­PHON­IST Jimmy Greene and his fam­ily spent only three years in Win­nipeg, but their link to the city is for­ever etched in his record,

Beau­ti­ful Life, which re­ceived two Grammy Award nom­i­na­tions ear­lier this week.

The al­bum is a trib­ute to his six-year-old daugh­ter, Ana Grace Mar­quez-Greene, who was slain dur­ing the mass shoot­ing at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School in New­town, Ct., in De­cem­ber 2012. It in­cludes the voices of Ana’s class­mates at Lin­den Chris­tian School, which she and her older brother, Isa­iah, at­tended when they lived in Win­nipeg.

Greene, who is a pro­fes­sor at Western Con­necti­cut State Univer­sity, where he also co-or­di­nates the jazz stud­ies pro­gram, was for­merly a jazz pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba; the fam­ily moved to Con­necti­cut the sum­mer be­fore the tragedy.

Lin­den Chris­tian School’s Early Years Choir is fea­tured on two songs:

Ana’s Way, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Greene and jazz vo­cal­ist Kurt Elling; and the record’s fi­nal song, Lit­tle Voices.

The choir recorded its parts with Greene at the school in the sum­mer of 2014. It was a chal­leng­ing, sor­row­ful sit­u­a­tion for ev­ery­one in­volved, Greene re­called in an email in­ter­view with the Free Press ear­lier this week.

“To be hon­est, there were mo­ments dur­ing the LCS choir record­ing ses­sion that were al­most un­bear­ably dif­fi­cult,” Greene said. “It was the first time I had seen some of the chil­dren and their fam­i­lies since Ana’s mur­der. It was dif­fi­cult at times to ex­pe­ri­ence the kids’ emo­tions, too — they really missed their friend.

The height­ened emo­tions dur­ing the record­ing ses­sion may have con­trib­uted to the power of Beau­ti­ful Life, which was re­warded on Mon­day with nom­i­na­tions for Best Jazz In­stru­men­tal Al­bum and Best Ar­range­ment, In­stru­ment and Vo­cals.

“The im­pact that the kids had upon the al­bum is tremen­dous,” Greene said. “It meant so much to have the chil­dren who knew and loved Ana the most singing lyrics I wrote about her.”

Greene also gave credit to Lin­den Chris­tian mu­sic di­rec­tor Brenda John­son, prin­ci­pal Rob Charach and oth­ers in­volved with or­ga­niz­ing the re­hearsals.

Ana’s voice can also be heard on the record. For the open­ing track,

Salu­dos/Come Thou Almighty King, Greene in­cor­po­rated a home record­ing of her singing along with Isa­iah’s pi­ano.

“I specif­i­cally wanted the song con­tain­ing her beau­ti­ful voice to be the first song heard — a voice that will be heard for eter­nity in heaven, and one I felt should be heard here on Earth, as well,” he said.

Beau­ti­ful Life is Greene’s 10th al­bum as a ban­dleader. He said he has mixed emo­tions about the record’s suc­cess.

“It is quite hum­bling and quite an amaz­ing hon­our to be nom­i­nated for two Grammy Awards this year, but also quite bit­ter­sweet — I wish this al­bum never had to be made in the first place,” he said.

It wasn’t un­til Greene worked on the fi­nal mix of Beau­ti­ful Life that he thought about the record’s emo­tional im­pact for fans of jazz.

“When I went back and lis­tened to the tracks with fresh ears, I re­al­ized that the story told by the 10 songs on the al­bum was quite mean­ing­ful,” Greene wrote in his email. “I ex­pected the al­bum to res­onate with peo­ple, but I am still hum­bled by the over­whelm­ing sup­port it has been shown.”

Greene made the al­bum with the as­sis­tance of Nor­man and David Ch­esky of Ch­esky Records, who helped fund and pro­duce the project.

“It wouldn’t have hap­pened with­out them, and they sought no profit from this at all. They gave me com­plete own­er­ship of the mas­ters they paid for,” Greene told The As­so­ci­ated Press ear­lier this week. “It’s an amaz­ing gift they gave.”

A por­tion of the pro­ceeds from Beau­ti­ful Life will ben­e­fit two or­ga­ni­za­tions: the Artists Col­lec­tive, where Greene stud­ied and taught, and the Ana Grace Project, founded by his wife, Nelba Mar­quez-Greene, a mar­riage and fam­ily ther­a­pist.

“(We’re) try­ing to pro­mote em­pa­thy and com­pas­sion in young kids to hope­fully pre­vent th­ese in­stances of gun violence like the one that took my daugh­ter’s life,” he said of the Ana Grace Project.

The Gram­mys will be handed out in Los An­ge­les on Feb. 15.


Sax­o­phon­ist Jimmy Greene with his late daugh­ter, Ana Grace Mar­quez-Greene, who in­spired his Grammy-nom­i­nated al­bum Beau­ti­ful Life. Greene lived in Win­nipeg with his fam­ily for three years.


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