He's called Green and he's giving London the blues

By Simon Round, May 26, 2011
Leo Green: festival

Leo Green: festival

The prevailing wisdom is that following in the footsteps of a famous father can be dangerous, particularly when your father was Benny Green, the beloved jazz saxophonist, writer and broadcaster who died in 1998.

Clearly no one told Benny's son, Leo Green, the jazz saxophonist, broadcaster and now concert promoter, who has thrown his considerable energy into BluesFest - a jazz and blues festival for London taking place this summer.

From the first time he heard his father perform when he was about six-years-old Green knew music was for him. He took up the instrument seriously aged 15 and by 18 was playing gigs. His CV resembles a who's who of rock. He played with Jerry Lee Lewis, spent eight years in Van Morrison's band, and appeared with Jools Holland, Ray Charles and many more. Lewis called Green, "the greatest sax player I ever worked with", but Green is not so sure. "I wouldn't say I was exceptional. As great as Jerry was, well let's face it, it's not Mozart we're talking about here."

When Green hit his 30s, he decided a change of career was in order. "Being on tour is as a bit like being in the navy. It's great when you're young and single but not when you're married with kids."

So he began booking bands. In 2005 he wrote to Sally Green (no relation), the then new owner of Ronnie Scott's with suggestions about acts he could book for the legendary jazz club. She said she had a blank date and invited him to fill it. Green was immediately on the phone to Van Morrison. Soon, he was given the job full-time.

He has also been dipping in to his contacts book to set up his latest project, BluesFest. "I spent years on the road in Europe doing lots of festivals. They call them jazz and blues festivals but basically, if you're good, you're in. Every city except London seems to have one. We have tried to supply something for everyone, ranging from B B King to Liza Minnelli and everything in between."

If his interest in touring diminished over the years, his passion for music has remained as strong as when he was a child. "At home there was always music being played and we got to see people like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Looking back, it was amazing. But my dad wasn't showbizzy - it was all about family for him."

Green the younger now has a family of his own. And he has taken after his father in another way too - he has a radio show which goes out at exactly the same time on Sunday afternoon as Benny's Radio 2 programme used to.

And he still plays. "Most weekends I'm to be found doing a hora medley at someone's function. It's a lot of fun - I'd much rather be doing a wedding than going on tour for six months.

BluesFest London is at venues across the capital from June 27–July 3. Tickets from www.bluesfestlondon.com. More about Leo Green's band at www.theleogreenexperience.com

    Last updated: 11:12am, May 26 2011