Vernice "Bunky" Green was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he played the alto saxophone, mainly at a local club called "The Brass Rail."
His first big break came when he was hired in New York City by Charles Mingus as a replacement for Jackie McLean in the 1960s. His brief stint with the eccentric bass player made a deep impression. Mingus' sparing use of notation and his belief that there was no such thing as a wrong note had a lasting influence on Green's own style.
The next year, Green moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he appeared with several prominent players including Sonny Stitt, Louie Bellson, Andrew Hill, Yusef Lateef, and Ira Sullivan. Originally strongly influenced by Charlie Parker, Green spent a period reassessing his style and studying, emerging with a highly distinctive sound that has deeply influenced a number of younger saxophonists, including Steve Coleman and Greg Osby.
Green gradually withdrew from the public eye to develop a career as a leading jazz educator. He taught at Chicago State University from 1972–1989, and in the 1990s took up the directorship of the jazz studies program at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville where he taught and acted as chair of Jazz Studies until his retirement in 2011. He has also served a term as the president of the International Association for Jazz Education and been elected to the Jazz Education Hall of Fame.
Green recorded several fine albums during the 1960s, including Step High (featuring Wynton Kelly and Jimmy Cobb), Playing for Keeps, and Soul in the Night (which paired Bunky with Sonny Stitt). In addition to a handful of records as a leader on the Vanguard label during the 1970s, he also recorded several albums with Elvin Jones, including Summit Meeting and Time Capsule. His 1989 session on the Delos label, Healing the Pain, commemorates the death of his parents and was awarded the coveted 5 star rating from Down Beat magazine. Green's studio album, Another Place (which features the rhythm section of Jason Moran, Lonnie Plaxico, and Nasheet Waits), also received a 5 star review from Down Beat. In July 2008 his recording The Salzau Quartet Live at