Friday, July 15, 2005

Top five Grant Green discs:

Jazz guitarist Grant Green never quite received the respect of his contemporaries like Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell, but at his peak from 1961 to 1965, he released reams of great albums on the Blue Note label. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Grantstand – Green’s albums usually fell into a couple of categories, organ boogaloos and modernist hard bop. This album is fascinating because it combines both of those two styles. Brother Jack McDuff lays down the funky organ groove while Yusef Lateef blows hard and heavy on tenor saxophone, flute and oboe. Green stakes out the middle ground between these two other giants, and lays down a modern groove all his own.
2. Matador – Hard to imagine a more killer post-bop rhythm section than McCoy Tyner, Bob Cranshaw and Elvin Jones. Green hold his own and flourishes, dispelling any down that he was just a groove player. The highpoint is “My Favorite Things” which he nails as if he feels no pressure of Coltrane’s epic version hanging over him.
3. Quartets with Sonny Clark – Grant Green and pianist Sonny Clark were a simpatico pair. Both were steeped in bebop and the blues, with great knowledge of jazz and pop standards. Hearing both stretch out on “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is amazing and when they lock into the watertight groove that Art Blakey is keeping on the drums, the results are just spellbinding.
4. Street of Dreams – Here we find Green with another trio of modernists, but with a completely different feel. Elvin Jones is back on drums, but this time they are joined by Bobby Hutcherson on vibraphone and Larry Young on organ. The develop a groove that is all about shades of color that can be developed in music. Jones is superb on music that is moles away from the thunder of the Coltrane quartet.
5. Solid – Almost a companion to Matador, astoundingly Blue Note kept this one in the archive until the mid-80’s. Joe Henderson blows some hard edged tenor saxophone and McCoy Tyner keeps things moving with brisk chording. Green is very patient on this recording, picking his solo spots with care, proving himself every inch the equal of the heavyweights on this disc.

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