Monday, May 28, 2018

Grant Green - Slick! Live at Oil Can Harry’s (Resonance, 2018)

Recorded live in Vancouver for radio in September of 1975, this music was set to tape less than four years before Green's sad death at the young age of 43. On this album, he is joined by Emmanuel Riggins on electric piano, Ronnie Ware on bass, Greg Williams on drums and Gerald Izzard on percussion. Green never really left traditional jazz behind, as evidenced by the opening performance of Charlie Parker's bebop chestnut "Now's the Time" with some soundscape filling electric piano and hand percussion meeting for a nice groove at a friendly medium tempo. Green glides in with a melodic, agreeable tone to start exploring the tune, and providing a link between the hard bop jazz of his early sixties playing with the amiable funk of his seventies approach. "How Insensitive (Insensatez)" begins as a ballad, opening for Green's unaccompanied solo, playing in a plaintive and subtle manner and he is soon joined be various percussion instruments and electric piano, developing a moody, heartbroken feel. The band is patient and thoughtful as they probe the theme and move thoughtfully to an easygoing mid-tempo with choppy percussion and nimble guitar out front and bass and electric piano shading framing the music. The keyboard sound is occasionally chintzy but effective within the bubbling percussion and guitar. The tempo gradually builds louder and faster, working well in a dynamic context when the music swells to sharply plucked guitar, rippling electric piano and percussion. They drift to near silence at one point, before rebounding and adding a whistle (!) as the guitar, keyboards and percussion grow louder, setting up a funky improvised conclusion. The remainder of the album consists of a massive thirty-two minute suite called "Medley: Vulcan Princess / Skin Tight / Woman’s Gotta Have It / Boogie On Reggae Woman / For The Love Of Money" which makes use of a montage of rhythms beginning with quiet guitar and bass, before some very surprising electronics break through, as if the keyboardist suddenly began channeling Sun Ra. They quickly recover as Green steps out for a guitar solo that is fast and fleet, as the whistle comes back, and the band moves into an exciting full band improvisation, with exciting rhythmic propulsion colored by smears of keyboard outlining a powerful statement. Loping bass and smudges of keyboard slow things down to a spacier interlude before the rattling drums bounce back and the music assumes a bright, poppy feel. The concept of groove is central to this huge performance, whether fast or slow, the group is locked in on the music and with each other. They start playing very fast about two thirds of the way through, using the technique of tension and release that propelled some of Green's best bop based work and this concept is just as effective in the funk realm, providing the energy that fuels the group's improvisation, and keeps things enjoyable for the listener. Narcotics issues would lead to an extended period of ill health and his eventual passage in the late seventies, but as seen here, Green was still able to make powerful and accessible music when the setting was right. Slick! - Live at Oil Can Harry's -

Send comments to Tim.