Beautiful Life is a beautiful tribute to and album for Jimmy Greene’s 6 year old daughter Ana who was tragically killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting where 19 other children and 6 adults also lost their lives.
Such a context for this musical eulogy, and creative impulse, provides a poignancy that doesn’t need explaining or justifying, and it puts the notion of a critique firmly to the periphery of any observations.
This is a celebration of Ana’s short life, and where Greene has written lyrics for some of the songs on the album, that verbal expression of loss and love is understandably poised for any listener on the edge of appreciation and heartbreak – the purpose to create a public empathy and positive memory unimpeachable.
The opening track Saludos/Come Thou Almighty King has a gentle and restrained interplay between Greene on saxophone and Pat Metheny on acoustic guitar, and it ends emotively with a recording of Ana singing the hymn with her brother Isaiah playing the piano. Such highly personal tracks do push the aural engagement to difficult areas, but that has to be a part of the intention: again, as an absolutely direct celebration – his daughter’s voice from the past – and the creative catharsis for Greene. This is perhaps even more heightened in the track Ana’s Way where vocalist Kurt Elling is joined by a choir of Ana’s former classmates from their time in Winnipeg [not Sandy Hook – that would have been too traumatic, and too close to the tragedy].
There is a strong statement of Christian faith throughout: for example in the opening hymn, and in the song Prayer which is a musical re-working of the Lord’s Prayer. This clearly informed the life of the whole Greene family and offers support and solace in this album’s remembrance. One can only respect this comfort being achieved; for me, I see ‘forgiveness’ in the creative impulse that allows Jimmy Greene in this context to continue so positively as an artist and father.