Jimmy Greene is an American jazz saxophonist, gospel musician, recording artist, record producer, and music professor. He started his music career in 1997, and has since released eight studio albums. His eighth studio album, Beautiful Life, was his breakthrough release upon the Billboard magazine charts. It also received his first Grammy Award nominations.
What was your initial inspiration to play your instrument, and what inspired you to continue?
Seeing my father pull out his beat-up old tenor saxophone from junior high school and honk out “Sister Sadie” by Horace Silver (whose quintet I would eventually join!) was my initial inspiration, as a six-year-old, to play the saxophone. I had several band directors along the way who were very encouraging, but meeting Jackie McLean as a fifteen-year-old was the impetus of my pursuit of a career in music.
You’ve obviously put a lot of time into honing your craft. What’s it like putting in all that hard work?
Funny, I look back and I don’t think of one minute I ever spent on my instruments as hard work. I was just doing what I loved and trying to get better every moment I possibly could – the practicing and learning have always been a great joy. The consistent flow of calls, texts and emails to book gigs, clinics, tours, rehearsals, recording sessions, airplane seats, hotels – negotiating contracts, filing taxes – now THAT feels like work!
That's a great way to look at it! This approach seems to have served you very well over the years.
In my experience, every time I put the instrument to my lips is an opportunity – an opportunity to express myself fully, an opportunity connect with new listeners, an opportunity to communicate something personal and profound to an audience, an opportunity to connect in that special way while performing with other musicians. I’ve been very blessed that people with influence have heard me seizing these opportunities and have opened many doors for me along the way.
If you could share one bit of wisdom with you younger self, or any young player for that matter, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to let on that you don’t know something. You won’t look silly – no one has all the answers to everything. Everyone is knowledgeable about some things and clueless about others!