grantgreen

Grant Green ‘Feelin’ the Spirit’

Recorded 21 Dec 1962, ‘Feelin’ the Spirit’ was the last of the “theme” records Green would explore that year. Having previously gone west and then south of the border in previous sessions, Green recruited pianist Herbie Hancock and the ace rhythm duo of bassist Butch Warren and drummer Billy Higgins to take us all to church. The material is a collection of familiar spirituals like “Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho” and “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”, transmogrified into modern, soulful hard bop. The approach here ranges from reflective to celebratory, with the blues running deeply throughout. The interplay between Green and Hancock is marvelous, and while the tempos never really swing hard, the intensity is palpable. This is 1979 Japanese King pressing GXK 8117, stereo, a reissue of BST 84132. Preach

Grant Green ‘Sunday Morning’

I love the way Grant Green’s 4th album floats atop the room. Mixing standard and originals, this aptly titled and FANTASTIC record tends to get lost amongst Green’s better-known albums. That’s a drag because Green’s quartet, which features the Bens (Tucker on bass and Dixon on drums) along with the underrated Kenny Drew on piano, knock this 1961 session out of the freakin’ park. Green and Drew are incredibly well-matched…just amazing playing across the board. Drew is the hero of the session with line after line of melodic, graceful, fleet-fingered magic that goes toe-to-toe with Green’s propensity for single-line playing. I must call attention to the presence of the bass in the mix here which cuts through in a way that’s prominent and pleasing—if you’re one of those folks who strains a bit to hear the detail in acoustic bass when it isn’t occupying enough of the soundstage, this record will blow your stack. Great day at the mixing console by the Notorious RVG. Put down your phone/tablet/laptop, go to your record store of choice and pick up this brand new reissue from Slow Down Sounds RIGHT NOW. A late contender for my top 10 vinyl reissues of 2019, this all-analog, Kevin Gray cut, gorgeous tip-on (and heavy) jacket replica is VERY reasonably priced and sounds incredible. This is up there with Music Matters and Tone Poet in terms of sonics and overall quality @slowdownsounds

Grant Green ‘Born to Be Blue’

Another must-own title from the Tone Poet series. More specifically: Here we have Green paired with one of his best melodic foils, pianist Sonny Clark. If you’ve not heard their quartet work together (four LPs, all of which are essential) stop what you’re doing right now and right that wrong. The Green/Clark symmetry is superb, bordering on magical. Add tenor sax ace Ike Quebec (whom Green had also done several sessions with), power the affair with the Sam Jones (bass)/Louis Hayes (drums) engine, and you’ve got a ticket to hard bop heaven with tight, turn-on-a-dime, conversational interplay. Take the title track for instance: a smokey, dimly-lit scene is setup by Quebec and Clark. Quebec’s playing is pensive. Measured. Heartfelt. As he seeks a silver lining in his world-weariness, Green begins to quietly make his presence known, gently arpeggiating a couple of chords before commenting on Quebec’s parting thoughts with clean, single-line precision. Then Quebec claps back with a forceful, anguished wail before adding a few final musings. He and Clark gently bring this soul-searching ballad to a close before Quebec’s final words, and Clark sends everyone back into a misty night…no happier, no wiser, but perhaps a bit more resolute. An achingly beautiful ballad that’s superbly delivered by this quintet. There’s an interesting alternate take on the digital version that doesn’t carry nearly the same emotional impact for those who care to compare. Great job by Joe & the Tone Poet team—great sound, lovely packaging and the price is right. I’m pleased to see this continued focus on sessions that were shelved when originally recorded like Wayne Shorter’s ‘Etcetera’ and Donald Byrd’s ‘Chant’. Often their initial appearance in the 1980s wasn’t exactly with much fanfare, and the cover art used in that series was—compared to the inspiring photos and art of @bluenoterecords heyday—crap. That wrong has now been righted. This one was recorded in March 1962 but put on ice until 1985. Highest recommendation

Grant Green ‘Grant’s First Stand’

When the clocks on Saturday night get late enough to feel like Sunday morning, enter the gospel-infused, blues-drenched stylings of Grant Green. ‘Grant’s First Stand’ is his debut as a leader, recently issued as an all-analog cut as part of @bluenoterecords 80th anniversary celebration. This trio outing featuring Roosevelt “Baby Face” Willette on organ and Ben Dixon on drums was the start of Green’s prolific career as the “in house” guitarist at Blue Note, appearing on nearly 70 albums over the few years. He’d lead 30 of those himself, ranging from hard bop to modal to soul jazz to funk, all of which featured his distinctive sound—a biting, clean tone and tendency to favor single-note lines over chords. Criminally underrated during his all-too-short lifetime (he died of a heart attack in 1979 after years of substance abuse issues), his star rose considerably as the acid jazz movement and hip hop sampling revealed the depth of his creativity and contributions. Legendary records like ‘Idle Moments’, ‘Feelin the Spirit’ and ‘Street of Dreams’ may already be a part of your jazz library, but this is where it all began, and very much worth exploring. A perfect Sunday morning spin

Grant Green ‘Oleo’

There’s a synergy between guitarist Grant Green and pianist Sonny Clark that makes all the sessions they recorded in the five week period between 23 Dec 1961 and 31 Jan 1962 essential listening. Quality however doesn’t necessarily run consistently with A&R decisions and as Green’s more commercially leaning soul jazz proclivities were Blue Note’s focus, none were released during Green’s lifetime. When they were finally rolled out of the vault in the 80s and split into individual albums, vinyl availability was limited to Japan for two of those three sessions. Blue Note has since compiled them into a double CD (“The Complete Grant Green/Sonny Clark Quartets”) which is spectacular, but for the vinyl hounds this release ‘Oleo’ was the last of the sessions Green/Clark did together and issued by King in Japan in 1980 as part of the “Worlds First Appearance” series (GXF 3065). Like “Gooden’s Corner”, this one features Sam Jones on bass and Louis Hayes on drums supporting the melodic interplay between Green and Clark, with highlights being the Green original “Hip Funk”, a fun take on Sonny Rollins’ “Oleo” and a ripping run at “My Favorite Things”. Sonically, this Japanese pressing sounds pretty terrific though truth be told, the double CD sounds as good and costs less. Besides, the CD contains the equally brilliant work of the other sessions including the crowning achievement: the Green/Clark Quartet (with Art Blakey on drums) turning “It Ain’t Necessarily So” on its head—you gotta hear it. Of the LPs that reveal the awesomeness of these sessions—“Oleo”, “Gooden’s Corner”, and “Nigeria”—this one is the least essential but STILL ESSENTIAL. Again, pick up the CD and you get it all and it’s all pretty great