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Tony Green

It’s not uncommon for creative people to have more than one outlet for their muse. Musicians as diverse as Felix Mendelssohn, George Gershwin, Tony Bennett and Joni Mitchell could all paint pretty well, for instance.

I know fewer examples of great visual artists who are musically gifted, but Tony Green certainly fits that description. The 41-year-old New Orleans native is one of the city’s better-known painters, and lately his musical star has been rising as well: he’s making his Jazz Fest debut this year and now this, his first CD is out on Orleans Records.

As a guitarist growing up in America in the late '60s and '70s, you'd expect Green to worship at the feet of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page or John McLaughlin. Far from it. Tony's idol is of all people the Belgian gypsy jazz giant Django Reinhardt.

Green got turned onto this style of music while studying art in [Bruges], Belgium in 1978. He fell in with gypsies who live in that part of Europe and this sparked an interest in gypsy guitar that borders on the fanatical.

"I'm a passionate person and I love the passion of this music," Green explains. "Unlike some types of music, the gypsies are always trying to play something beautiful. Theirs is an ancient culture and perhaps this appeals to my love of classical antiquity. They play a whole melange of music; musettes, tangos, waltzes, Spanish pieces, tunes with an Eastern European flavor - the variety is wonderful."

Belgium was not the first place Green combined art education with gigging. While matriculating at the University of Southwest Louisiana in Lafayette in the mid-'70s he played with zydeco bands like L.C. Donato and the Drifters, mostly "dance music for the sugar cane cutters on Saturday nights." During a year-long ramble around West Africa in 1979 he jobbed with Ghanian high-life bands, music he describes as "guitar-heavy dance music with roots in the 50s."

In the past half-dozen years Green has been able to combine his love of art and music in a series of outstanding paintings illustrating various aspects of New Orleans' music and culture. A triptych he painted for the Storyville Jazz Hall depicts the life of the infamous red-light district at the turn of the century; it's now housed at the Louisiana State Museum (the old U.S. Mint).

The best known of Tony's paintings - and one of the most popular works of art in New Orleans is a mammoth mural painted in 1991 at the Mid-City Bowling Lanes.

Since 1985 Green has spent three to six months every year living in Venice, Italy. Though he has been able to gig in Venice over the years, the last few summers he's fed his music fix by touring Switzerland with a traditional jazz band led by the clarinetist Walter Weber.

"I love the combination. Europe offers a traditional way of life, and the people there have an aesthetic awareness that's ingrained in their culture."

"At the same time," he continues, "slavish adherence to tradition can be very detrimental. I appreciate America, where the status quo is always questioned and where individuality is encouraged and rewarded."

"I'm very thankful for the gifts I've been blessed with,  and I feel it's my duty to share them with the rest of the world."
                                                                                                                                               ---Anthony Clarke


Originally published in OffBeat, May 1996.



Tony Green - Gypsy Jazz - Cover.jpg

Tony Green
Gypsy Jazz

Zinging / Waltz For Pud / Calvarie / Nuages / Douce Joie /

Petit Fleur / Viva Mureno / I Asked A Flower /

Bolero / Russian Lullaby / Danse Norviege

Originally Released: September 10, 1996 _________________________________________________ Coming soon...


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