"Change Up Blues" - Bennie Green
There are teases of bebop throughout this 1960 album of standards and originals as Bennie Green ushered in the era of hard bop with a heavy swing and the blues. He was there with the big bands as bebop combos replaced them, and still this recording demonstrates Green’s dexterity to hang alongside J.J. Johnson and the tenor madness. But even with its flying tempo, “Change Up Blues” signals the turn away from the complex melodies and harmonies of bebop in pursuit of an endless riff instead on which to fade out the recording.
With the mid-century boom of the recording industry, bebop relied upon the sensitivity of studio microphones to capture its intricacies; all the doodles and chromatic-isms produced at a low volume and accentuated by the close proximity of the microphone. These qualities, normally lost in the echo of a bustling ballroom, forced the jazz audience to listen rather than dance. Bennie Green, however, still wanted to swing.
In his solo, Green acknowledges the transition from bebop to hard bop through alternating choruses. The former chorus tends to showcase his ability to outline and bend the harmony, whereas the latter makes use of shout patterns that excite the rhythm section and set the audience in motion. With a focus on the groove, Bennie Green revitalized big band traditions within a small combo setting to create the foundation of hard bop, along with the growing influence of 1960’s soul music.
Here is where I usually include a YouTube video example for reference, however there isn’t much existing footage of Bennie Green in general. Perhaps with enough Patreon support, I could create a video of myself working this tune. *cough, cough*
Recommended reading: “Bennie Green: An Appreciation” by Gordon Jack, as appears on Jazz Profiles