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Going Green on St. Patrick's Day? A top jazz drummer beat you to it

Drummer Rodney Green performing with the Christian McBride Trio at Love Supreme Jazz Festival in Lewes, United Kingdom on July 6, 2014.
Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images
Drummer Rodney Green performing with the Christian McBride Trio at Love Supreme Jazz Festival in Lewes, United Kingdom on July 6, 2014.

The luck o' the Irish could be said to apply to many a talented musician, but it bears particular relevance in the case of Rodney Green. A drummer who's thrived at the center of the action since his teens, Green's track record spans everyone from Charlie Haden to Patti LaBelle. He's also a bandleader, a producer, a podcaster — and as of a few weeks ago, the proud owner of a brand-new jazz club.

One more thing. More than any of the other emerald greats in jazz lore — guitarists Grant Green and Freddie Green, saxophonists Bunky Green and Jimmy Greene, and pianists Benny Green and Danny Green — Rodney has a natural alignment with St. Patrick's Day, because it's his birthday: he was born in Camden, NJ on March 17, 1979.

If you've been paying attention to the modern jazz scene over the last 25 years, you're probably already familiar with Green's exploits. Faced with the temptation to enumerate those achievements here, I defaulted instead to the title of a Thelonious Monk tune that Green included on his 2020 album Live at Jazzhus Montmartre, Copenhagen, with Warren Wolf on vibraphone, David Wong on bass and Jacob Christoffersen on piano.

Still, a bit of exposition may be necessary, so I'll refer you to a profile of Green that I wrote for the Philadelphia City Paper almost two dozen years ago. Here is a passage from the piece, detailing his fast ascent on the scene, thanks in part to a helping hand from fellow Philly players like pianist Orrin Evans.

In 1997, Green received a call from alto saxophonist Antonio Hart, who needed an emergency sub for a JVC Jazz Festival concert in New York. It was an auspicious debut. "I was introduced as this 18-year-old drummer from Philly," Green recalls. "I got presented really well." A few months later, Green, who had been working regularly with altoist Bobby Watson, moved to the Big Apple. After playing an outdoor concert at Bryant Park with Watson, Green met Stefon Harris, a vibraphonist who had just been signed to Blue Note Records. Harris eventually introduced the 18-year-old drummer to another Blue Note artist, alto saxophonist Greg Osby. Before long, Green became a member of Osby’s working band; he played on two albums (Zero and Banned in New York, both on Blue Note). He also joined up with bassist (and fellow Philly cat) Christian McBride, and pianist Eric Reed. "I was sleeping on the floor in Orrin’s apartment," Green muses, "but I was in New York sleeping on the floor, so I didn’t care."

William Brown

Green has long been an enterprising artist, not content to stick to the role of a sideman. He's the content creator behind a podcast and YouTube channel called Purgatory Perceptions, which was most active during the peak pandemic era. And he has released digital music under the name Jackson Miller, a project that explores the bonds between improvised music and hip-hop.

Now he's also the owner of a brick-and-mortar jazz club, Brvsh Cul7ur3 (pronounced "Brush Culture") in Teaneck, on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge. An intimate spot in a former kosher restaurant, with seating for about 50 people, it came out of a need that Green saw, never more clearly than in the last few years.

"The pandemic showed us how fragile music is," he said in a recent article on northjersey.com. "It's a lot to pay tolls, parking and tickets to jazz places in Manhattan. I wanted a place where residents could go locally and less expensively."

Since opening in mid-February, Brvsh Cul7tur3 has hosted some heavyweight talent from the greater New York scene. Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander held down a couple of Monday night jam sessions, and earlier this week Benito Gonzalez led one piano trio with Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums, while Roberta Piket led another with drummer Billy Mintz. The weeks ahead will see gigs by guitarist Nir Felder and pianists Jeb Patton and Oscar Perez.

But the most noteworthy booking so far at Brvsh Cul7tur3 may well be the one just ahead: a trio led by the club's owner, with Ben Rice on piano and Giuseppe Cucchiara on bass. The gig, on Friday night, will double as a birthday celebration for Green and a one-month anniversary for the club. Of course, it also happens to fall on St. Patrick's Day — but don't go in expecting to hear "Danny Boy."

For more info about Brvsh Cul7tur3, visit the club website. Find Rodney Green here.

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Editorial Director at WRTI, he oversees a range of classical and jazz coverage, and contributes regularly to NPR.