PlaySPACE2: New Album from Saxophonist Chris Greene

We talk with Vandoren Artist Chris Greene about his recent album, PlaySPACE2: Play Harder. Chris discusses the making of this album, performing during the pandemic, and how you can listen to this new work. 

Tell us about your album, PlaySPACE 2. Where did you get the inspiration to record this album? 

Like our previous record “PlaySPACE,” the majority of the tracks on “PlaySPACE 2” were recorded live at our favorite venue in the Chicagoland area - SPACE. One of the many great things about playing there is that if you give the engineer a flash drive, you can walk out of the venue with a multitrack recording of the gig you just played. The live tracks were pulled from 2 separate SPACE shows - 3 songs from February, 2019 and and 1 from March, 2020. Initially, I just like recording the shows to document the progress of the band. But during the height of the quarantine, Marc Piane (our bassist who mixed and co-produced the album) emailed some rough mixes of some songs from both shows. I listened and was floored by the energy from both the band and the audiences. I immediately decided that the next album would be another live record.

What was it like to record some of these selections during the height of the pandemic? 

Thankfully, most of the record was finished before the first shutdown/quarantine. In fact, our SPACE show in March of 2020 took place literally 2 weeks before everything closed down. The one lone studio track (“Samba Fu Maga”) was recorded in September of 2021 during a relatively “safe” time during the pandemic. We’d just come off a nice season of shows, so we were in good fighting shape. Plus I knew that I wanted at least one more original tune on the album. Most of the rest of the tracks are live covers of compositions by Duke Ellington, George Duke and Hank Williams. (Marc’s tune “Divers” is the other CGQ original song on the record.)

What is one of your favorite tunes on this album? 

It’s always hard to pick a favorite song on any of our albums. It’s such a cliche to say this, but the songs are genuinely like my children - even the ones that I didn’t even write. Musically speaking, however, this album contains some of our best recorded moments as a band. We tap into burnout/free jazz on Marc’s tune “Divers.” We get bluesy and soulful on the Hank Williams song (“You Win Again”). We even get into some 1970s Afro-Cuban fusion on the George Duke song (“Omi/Fresh Water”) - complete with a percussion breakdown performed by the four of us!

What is one piece of great advice you recently received that you’d like to share with our audience? 

There’s a great quote from Maya Angelou (I actually used a sample of her saying this to close the album) where she warns of the dangers of letting excessive praise go to your head. She basically says, “If you pick it up when everyone tells you you’re wonderful and a genius, you also have to pick it up when they tell you you suck and you’re a has-been.” That quote aligns with my work ethic perfectly. I know that I’m a heck of a lot more musically informed than I was when I started playing saxophone at 10 years old. I also know that I’ve got a mountain of things I want to improve at before I leave this rock.

“If you pick it up when everyone tells you you’re wonderful and a genius, you also have to pick it up when they tell you you suck and you’re a has-been.” - Maya Angelou

Where can people purchase and listen to this album?

The album officially drops on Friday, May 6. You can pre-order “PlaySPACE 2 - Play Harder” at Bandcamp. After May 6, you’ll be able to purchase it on Itunes, Dusty Groove, CD Baby and Amazon. You can listen to the record at any of your favorite streaming services EXCEPT Spotify - a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad company.

What’s next for you and your group?

For me personally, I’ve some great shows around the country as a sideman with some of the greatest bands Chicago has to offer. (Shout out to the mighty Midnight Sun!)

Regarding CGQ, the album release party is back at SPACE in Evanston (of course) on Sunday, May 29. After that we’ve got some festival gigs coming up as well as some concerts at some great Chicago rooms: Elmhurst Hall on June 22, Winters Jazz Club on June 23, Jazz Showcase July 28 to 31, City Winery on September 19, and Epiphany Center on November 10. Hopefully we’ll fit some regional and national touring in there as well. The goal is to return to the studio at the end of the year or the beginning of next year to start work on the next record. I truly love my job.



Join the conversation