Bob Greene: Man on a (Morton) Mission

Hal Smith: Dear Readers, this month Jeff and I will explore the music of the great jazz pianist Bob Greene. We start with the first recording of his that I heard... In the mid-1960s, the old Jazzologist magazine published a rave review of an album by the St. Peter Street Strutters, singling out the Jelly-style piano playing of Bob Greene. Not long after reading the review, I found a copy of the LP at Ray Avery’s Rare Records in Glendale, California. Bob Greene’s piano playing was just as excellent as the review indicated! Jeff, would you agree that this performance is a great introduction to Bob Greene’s music? Jeff Barnhart: Absolutely, Hal! I listened to this track three times to absorb the details. “St. Peter Street Strut” by this eponymous ensemble is a haunting 32-bar AABA number. First, we’re treated to a solo piano chorus by Greene in what Morton called the “Spanish Tinge” (or habanera rhythm) with Shorty Johnson lightly accompanying on tuba. While banjo is listed on the front of the LP, I hear drums, but my ears were glued to Greene’s “Mortonisms”: the push-pull of the beat in the right hand; the laconic single-note melody of the bridge—and the moving left hand bass bringing us out of it; the grace note flourishes accomplished by sliding the fingers off a black note to the higher white note: all of these and more show that Greene had deeply quaffed
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Hal Smith is an Arkansas-based drummer and writer. He leads the New Orleans Night Owls and the
Mortonia Seven and works with a variety of jazz and swing bands. Visit him online at

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Jeff Barnhart is an internationally renowned pianist, vocalist, arranger, bandleader, recording artist, ASCAP composer, educator and entertainer. Visit him online Email: [email protected]

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