By ERIC SCHELKOPF
Chicago saxophonist and composer Chris Greene and his bandmates don't believe in musical boundaries.
So it's appropriate that The Chris Greene Quartet's latest album is titled "Boundary Issues." The band will perform a number of shows in support of the new album, including on May 20 at the Winter's Jazz Club, 465 N. McClurg Court, Chicago.
More information and tickets are available at www.wintersjazzclub.com.
I had the chance to talk to Greene about the new album.
Q - Great talking to you again. So you are known for pushing the boundaries of jazz, and your new album is called "Boundary Issues." Did you try to push the boundaries even more on this album?
We never consciously tried to push the boundaries of jazz, although I think we certainly challenge most people’s idea of what jazz is. Individually, we listen to and are influenced by so much music along with jazz, so when it comes time to make music with the quartet, no genre, style, or musical idea is off the table.
Musical boundaries and divisions simply don’t exist to us. Good music is good music.
With “Boundary Issues,” we’re basically distilling many styles and using them as staring points for the compositions and the improvisations.
Q - This album is the eighth one with your quartet. How do you think the band has grown and evolved over the years?
On one hand, we’re committed to being the best musicians we can be, so we all continue to do our homework off the bandstand. Hopefully, that comes across on the recordings.
At the same time, I think we’ve realized that it’s no longer enough for us to dazzle an audience with our musical versatility. We simply want to play good, challenging and interesting music for people - regardless of style or genre.
Some of our most fervent fans are people who previously thought that they hated jazz. Those are the folks who end up buying all of our albums.
Q - The album also features a number of guest stars. What do you think they bring to the table?
This was the first time that we’d had guests in the studio with us, but I knew that the three musicians I chose would add their distinctive flavors to the sessions and push us to greater heights as a collective. Marqueal Jordan is simply one of my favorite saxophonists (and people) here in town.
Our musical influences intersect at several points, so he was a natural choice to join us for the song, “The Crossover Appeal.” JoVia Armstrong is an incredibly tasteful percussionist who performs in every situation imaginable, and her vibe enhances her two appearances.
And what more needs to be said about the great, young guitarist Isaiah Sharkey? I was elated that he could join us for two songs!
Q - "Boundary Issues" features both originals and interpretations of other people's songs. How did you go about choosing what songs to cover for this album and what did you want to do with them?
It always comes down to having enough new quality material that we’ve had ample time to test in front of various audiences. Once we hit a point where we’re focusing less on the sheet music and more and making the music sound and feel good - that’s usually the time to call our producer Joe Tortorici and book the studio time.
Q - Along with having your own quartet, you are also a musician that is in demand. Do you have any favorite musicians to work with?
As far as people I work with, I’m a little biased toward The J Davis Trio (led by my friend, vocalist Julio Davis - who also makes an appearance on the album) and the mighty West side funk/soul/R&B collective Midnight Sun (where I met Mr. Sharkey). Ultimately, I just love playing music, so I’m humbled and flattered when anyone calls me to play with them.
Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think you fit into it?
For the first 10 years of my career, people only seemed to know me from my early electric funk/jazz band New Perspective, my long association with a Dave Matthews cover band and various other rock and hip-hop projects.
So they’d be shocked to discover that I could play straight-ahead, acoustic jazz - which is what I went to school to study. For the next 10 years, people only seemed to know me as a traditional jazz player, and were surprised that I liked funk and other stuff.
Now people don’t seem to be surprised to see me with a jazz trio one night, a funk band the next, and a rock cover band the next. I just like playing music.
Q - Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?
I wrote and recorded background music for a children’s play recently, and I’d like to do more of that. I’d love to score an independent film.
I also want to compose, arrange and produce for other artists. I’d also like to eventually release music or comedy albums by other artists on my label.
The sky ain’t even the limit no more. No boundaries.