Pianist Benny Green, filling in for an ill Ahmad Jamal, was thoroughly prepared to slip into the gig, armed with a brace of standards from his solo piano album, “Green’s Blues,” due out in May from Telarc Jazz. Long thought to be the designated protege of Oscar Peterson — on the CD they recorded together, “Oscar and Benny” you can hardly tell them apart much of the time — and a talented young hard bopper, Green seemed anchored more toward the stride champions of yore as a solo pianist, keeping that solid pulse going come what may.
In terms of sheer technique, Green has plenty to burn, peeling off rapid unison octave runs in “Nice Work If You Can Get It” (a reference to the serendipitous nature of this last-minute solo gig) and all kinds of elaborate (not totally immaculate) yet tireless arpeggio work in “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Along the way, you would also hear echoes of Shearing (“Love You Madly”) or Brubeck (“I’ve Heard That Song Before”) in the massive chords.
Yet at times during Green’s 72-minute set, listener fatigue would set in. It might have been due to the bright, brittle, strident tone of the Yamaha piano on this night; those repeated notes on “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” would drill right through you.
It might also have been due to Green’s mostly unvarying dynamics; everything was played at pretty much the same moderately loud volume level. There’s no need to play with so much force all the time in such a live room.
Jamal is tentatively due at the Bakery in May.