If you're a Jazz Fest junkie doing your very best to catch as many shows as possible, you may notice that sax player Tim Green keeps popping up on stage even though his name never appears on any of the billings. That's because this quintessential sideman covers such a wide array of music that he becomes a little bit like the Where's Waldo of the fest.
This year, he is scheduled to appear at the Fair Grounds with three different acts: in Anders Osborne's band, with the Radiators, and in a special Jazz Fest arrangement headed up by James Singleton. "I actually had to cut back," says Green who plays every night of the week in New Orleans when he's not touring with one of several bands. "It used to be non-stop craziness but this year I told myself to slow down a little."
Green is best known for passionate solos that seem to shape themselves around whatever musical style he is playing. Standing beside the likes of jazz heavyweights, rock 'n' roll party bands or even Indian sitar players, he dutifully fills in the standard melodies without frills as he waits patiently until it's time for the music to explode. Then when the musical space is his, he takes a half step forward to let his saxophone wail. Improvisation wrapped around superior craftsmanship bursts through and more often than not, it's usually the point at which the whole bands takes off.
He has been on the New Orleans music scene for nearly 30 years, with a long list of accolades that has made him one of the most sought after sax players around. The most puzzling part about him is that after all of his success, he has never embraced a desire to do his thing from the front and center part of the stage or the recording booth.
"I'm an improviser, not a composer," says Green. "I've never felt limited in my creativity from the side of the stage, and I'm still finding interesting things in the music every time I play." He adds, "It's never the same, even with the same songs." The only time Green has taken center stage is after promoters convinced him to do so, sometimes putting bands together for him and arguing him out of his suggestion that they just hire one of the bands he is part of if they want to hear him so badly.
Indeed, Green's humility is also evident to the musicians that he plays with. After each performance, Green sends them thank you cards. When asked about it, Green sheepishly replies, "How did you know about that?" Then he chuckles, a little embarrassed, "I just feel fortunate to play with them and to be allowed so much creativity." That could explain why Green still makes time to play a weekly gig in a dance funk band on Bourbon Street and a second-line band that parades through Harrah's with Monk Boudreaux.
In addition to his festival appearances with Osborne and Singleton, Green will also be a part of their after-hours shows including Osborne's show at Rock 'n' Bowl and Singleton's set at the Dragon's Den on May 4. Other places where you might hear Green are an experimental set with drummer Simon Lott also at the Dragon's Den and the underground favorite dubbed the "last show of Jazz Fest" that takes place late on the last Sunday night of the fest and is led by Meters' drummer Zigaboo, which will be held at a yet to be announced location.
- Tim Green has earned respect as one of New Orleans' top sidemen.