CHELSEY GREEN and the GREEN PROJECT, Re-Envisioned
Growing up in Houston, Chelsey Green has fond memories of coming home from her classical violin lessons and hearing influential jazz funk and R&B vibes her parents were throwing down on the family stereo – Herbie Hancock, Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan and Rufus and George Clinton, et al. With her brilliant array of talents and all the classical scholarships and opportunities that came her way, the multi-talented singer/songwriter, violinist and violist could have found a comfy career playing in orchestras.
Yet God’s gift of music led her into bolder, more eclectic directions, resulting in a wondrous diversity that now, years later, inspires her and her longtime ensemble, Chelsey Green and the Green Project, to grace us with their fresh new EP ReEnvisioned - a dynamic and empowering collection that in only four tracks showcases their passions for contemporary and traditional jazz, R&B/funk and just a touch of classical violin. The EP lays a foundation for an upcoming full- length album (the band’s first since the Billboard charting The Green Room in 2014) that will include elements of her deep gospel roots as well.
“The title ReEnvisioned for me means that I am consciously trying to break out of the niche mentality and NOT stay restricted to one single genre,” says Chelsey, whose discography includes the 2012 EP Still Green and includes the popular 2018 single “Summertime.” “My music is influenced by so many styles, and over the years, we’ve really cultivated a vibe in in the live setting that incorporates all of those elements seamlessly. The same way music has been fed to me throughout my life, that’s how I want to share my voice and personal artistry. A lot of our songwriting comes together when we are rehearsing for performances. That’s where we do a lot of creative diving and arranging. After we recorded these first four tracks, I started thinking about a title that would capture exactly what we were aiming for.”
“Classical music has been good to me, and I love what it has taught me about harmony,” she adds. “At the same time, I am a black woman and very much in tune with the jazz music of my culture borne out of despair. The style evolved out of work songs that connect us to our ancestors, for whom improvisation was a way to survive. I had a unique childhood, to say the least, where I would perform a concerto, then play ‘Amazing Grace’ at church. My first vocal performance ever was taking the feminine perspective on ‘The Boy From Ipanema.’”
For jazz and soul fans who haven’t experienced Chelsey Green and the Green Project’s explosive live performances across the U.S. and internationally over the years, the EP is the perfect primer to connect with the unique melodic, harmonic and grooving chemistry between Chelsey, Ignatius Perry Jr. (piano and keyboards), Kevin Powe, Jr. (bass) and Brian “Spyda” Wheatley (drums). All of them contribute their writing and arranging skills the three originals on ReEnvisioned (“Soundcheck,” “It’s Not What It Seems,” “Time”) and the spirited, jazzy, funky and swinging re-imagining of “Fly Me To the Moon” featuring trumpet great Sean Jones, a longtime friend and educational colleague of Chelsey’s.
Whether she’s singing or choosing to use her stringed instruments as lead voice, Chelsey is a masterful storyteller and she calls the tunes on ReEnvisioned the soundtrack of her life. Literally written during a soundcheck before a show at a performing arts center, the soulful, sensual and eminently grooving opening track “Soundcheck” – which finds Chelsey creating magic out of the experience of checking levels, exploring resonances and manipulating timbres in an effort to make the performance electrifying – represents the repetition it takes sometimes in life to get things just right.
The moody, thoughtful instrumental ballad “It’s Not What It Seems” stops at one point from its infectious soul-jazz vibe for a random classical-influenced breakdown. In addition to serving as a commentary about the falseness about people’s self-presentation on social media, the song reflects an inner conversation Chelsey is having with herself to focus on tangible goals and not just the idea of what she thinks they are.
Spinning “Fly Me to the Moon” so far beyond its traditional orbit that we can almost imagine Sinatra snapping his fingers and soaring along, Chelsey’s inviting and passionate vocals share the reality that she’s not asking you for the entire galaxy, just a little love and affection. The final track “Time,” is Chelsea’s favorite and features her viola-based string arrangement around her beautiful and heartbreaking vocals. On one level, it’s a mournful tune about the impact of lies and deceit in a relationship. In a larger sense, it’s about the importance of living one’s life truthfully and authentically, even if we sometimes feel we must lie to ourselves to keep up appearances.
A native of Houston, Texas, Dr. Chelsey Green was born into a family of jazz and funk musicians and started her performance career as a violinist at age 5. Her father, Craig Green, was an influential teacher at a performing arts middle school who taught numerous future professional musicians. Chelsey received a scholarship for classical viola studies at The University of Texas at Austin, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude, and later earned her Master’s from The Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Maryland College Park.
In August 2017, Chelsey was appointed Associate Professor in the String Department at the prestigious Berklee College of Music, where she teaches privately, conducts a lab for viola students, teaches introductory and intermediate improvisation and intermediate and advanced ensemble. Dedicated to educational outreach efforts for young people, she and her bandmates provide a wide range of educational music workshops to city and county schools, after school programs, educational groups and more. They work with students from all backgrounds, exposing them to the possibilities of what music can be. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to honor the paths others have paved for me especially to show young girls who look like me what is attainable,” she says.