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Jazz Saxophonist Jimmy Greene Plays Tribute To His Slain Daughter


Two years ago today, a gunman opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He killed 26 people, 20 of them were first-graders. Six-year-old Ana Greene was one of the children who died that day. Her father, Jimmy Greene, is a jazz saxophonist. And he recently recorded an outcome called "Beautiful Life," dedicated to his daughter's memory. This story was reported by Craig LeMoult of member station WSHU, and it first aired last month when Jimmy Greene's album came out. We play it again today to remember all those who died at Sandy Hook Elementary.


CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: The first song on Jimmy Greene's new album is an arrangement of "Come Thou Almighty King."


LEMOULT: The hymn was in a piano book that Greene's son, Isaiah, was learning.

JIMMY GREENE: And he would be practicing at home. And in the book they included the lyrics as well. My daughter, who always loved to be around my son when he was practicing, she would be around the piano. And she sung the lyrics while he was playing.


ANA: (Singing) Come thou almighty king. Help us thy name to sing.

LEMOULT: For months after Ana was killed in Newtown, Greene says he didn't have the strength or desire to think about music.

GREENE: But I felt increasingly less and less like myself, and I needed to get back to some sense of structure and routine and to some sense of getting back to what I do 'cause when there's not an accurate way to express my emotion or my struggle or my trauma, there's music. It's helpful in that way. It's akin to talking it out with someone.

LEMOULT: Greene wrote the song "Seventh Candle" around the time the family should have been celebrating Ana's seventh birthday.


LEMOULT: After news of Greene's loss spread, record producer and music publisher Norman Chesky called and offered a studio and all of the labor for recording an album completely free, and Greene could have full ownership of the results.

NORMAN CHESKY: He's a very talented composer, and I just figured that it would be a good way for him to pay tribute to his daughter. And also, as an artist, this would be a great way for him to express himself. And I just thought that maybe something positive could come out of this tragedy.

LEMOULT: That offer helped focus Greene on composing this album, his first to include lyrics. He says writing them was the hardest part.

GREENE: Sitting in my basement where I have my work area by myself and writing the songs and writing the lyrics, there was a lot of tears. There was a lot of anguish.


GREENE: (Singing) Ana had a way about her. (Accompanied by chorus) Giving lots of hugs each day.

She had a way of knowing if you needed a hug. She had a way of just communicating her love for everyone around her. When I'd go to kiss her cheek if she was leaving the house or if I was going somewhere, she would step back and she would pucker up like she wanted to kiss. She wanted to do the kissing. Like, she didn't want to be the one accepting the kiss. She wanted to be the one giving it.


GREENE: (Singing) We'll miss her smile. Though way too short, her life teaches us a lesson.

LEMOULT: Green says that lesson is love your neighbor.

GREENE: She showed love to, you know, everybody she came in contact with.

LEMOULT: Some of the children Ana loved are featured on the album. They're part of a children's choir made up of classmates of Ana and her older brother when they lived in Canada before the family moved to Newtown. Greene says some of Ana's friends were crying too hard to sing.

GREENE: They just missed her. They missed their friend. And it was tough to be in the room while they were singing these lyrics that I'd written.



GREENE: (Singing) Ana.

LEMOULT: There are some up-tempo songs on the album. Greene says his daughter liked to dance. But one of her favorite songs was "Maybe" from the musical "Annie."

GREENE: She would sin it a lot in the car as we were driving. And just the feeling of her singing the melody just by herself is something I wanted to capture on the album. And I recorded it - essentially just the melody - me playing it on soprano saxophone, which is the closest thing that I can play to my little girl's voice.


LEMOULT: Proceeds from the album will support The Artists Collective, a music program for at-risk youth in Hartford, Connecticut, where Jimmy Greene learned to play. And they'll support a program in Ana's name is developing school curricula on empathy and training on topics like violence prevention and trauma recovery.

GREENE: The last lyrics you hear the album are remember me, remember me, over and over again. I want Ana to be remembered. I want what happened here to be remembered so that we do something.

LEMOULT: For NPR News, I'm Craig Lemoult.


UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing) Remember me. Remember me.

MARTIN: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.