The deluge of political divisiveness, horrific violence and hateful rhetoric that seem to have polluted our lives on a daily basis over the last few years have left many people across the country and around the world feeling angry, frustrated and hopeless. It would be more than understandable if that feeling was even more intense for Jimmy Greene, for whom the flood of outrageous headlines and social media missives play out against the backdrop of personal tragedy.
Greene refuses to succumb to the negativity, however. On his heartfelt new album, While Looking Up, the saxophonist was guided by the inspirational words of his pastor: "If I'm not able to find strength or peace by looking inward," he said, "or if I'm not able to do it by looking outward to my immediate surroundings, I have to look upward."
On While Looking Up, due out April 3 via Mack Avenue Records, Greene finds solace, support and inspiration from each of these directions, but in particular from casting his gaze heavenward. Looking inward, he's comforted by his faith and by the gift for moving, expressive composition that has marked his work for the last two decades. Looking outward, he has his family and his brilliant collaborators, culled for this project from a list of longtime favorites who haven't entered the studio together in at least a decade.
And while looking up, he recalls the joyful spirit of his daughter, Ana Márquez-Greene, who tragically lost her life in 2012, along with 25 other students and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
"The whole idea of While Looking Up is indicative of the times we're in now," Greene said. "I can think about my personal journey through our family's tragedy, and I can also look outside of myself and see the state we're in, constantly bombarded with the chaos that's become normalized in our society and our country. In both instances, it's easy to walk away feeling disillusioned and, in many ways, hopeless. But I'm always reminded to look upward."
"Obviously a lot has happened over the last ten years in my life and in our world," Greene said. "We've all grown and matured musically, and in all cases developed as bandleaders, too. So, I wanted to get everybody together and see what happened."
"Music is a reflection of life," Greene concluded. "At its best, music transforms us and transports us to another place. We lose ourselves in it. I'm convinced that there's much more to be hopeful for than what we experience on a daily basis. So, I wanted this music to serve as a refuge from the harsh realities of this world, a place where you can temporarily lose yourself in something that's beautiful and impactful, something that's positive."