Jazz for Modernists 12 Grant Green 6 of the best

Jazz for Modernists 12 Grant Green 6 of the best

In the pantheon of guitar greats, Grant Green (1935-1979) stands tall. Troubled with health problems and yet hugely prolific throughout the 1960s, his fluid, bluesy and bebop-inspired guitar licks can be found on over 50 recordings for Blue Note during that decade (as leader and sideman). A melodic player of crisp, crystalline linear runs, inspired as much by saxophonist Charlie Parker as guitar hero Charlie Christian, Green’s first recordings were with tenor sax player and fellow St. Louis native Jimmy Forrest for the United label.

Around 1959/60, after being ‘discovered’ by Blue Note stalwart and alto sax man Lou Donaldson (with whom he toured briefly), Green moved to New York where he was introduced to Blue Note’s Alfred Lion. Hugely impressed, Lion started recording him as leader on a glut of sessions (some unreleased until the late 70s) and sideman for Baby Face Willette, Hank Mobley, Stanley Turrentine, Don Wilkerson, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Smith and Ike Quebec. Though initially fitting perfectly into the soul-jazz organ trio, gospel and Latin formats, Green’s early experience of playing with Coltrane drummer Elvin Jones would in time see him participating in some of Blue Note’s more adventurous recordings by the likes of Herbie Hancock (My Point of View), Bobby Hutcherson (The Kicker), Lee Morgan (Search for the New Land) and Larry Young (Into Somethin’).

Green’s initial period of success at Blue Note ran from 1961-1965. This was followed by a brief flirtation with the Verve label, a period of enforced absence and a return in 1969 for a series of funky but rather patchy LPs later championed by the acid jazz movement. In terms of overall legacy, mention must be made of four or five outstanding LPs he recorded for Blue Note as leader: Grant’s First Stand (1961), Idle Moments (1963/5), Talkin’ About! (1964/5), Street of Dreams (1964/7) and Matador (1964/79). Ranging from soul-jazz through to modal grooves, these are all essential additions to the collections of the thoughtful mod about town (or in her or his rural retreat). However, for those interested either in the dance floor or creating a party atmosphere, here are six tracks culled from the Green back catalogue that were released as singles (edited versions of album tracks). Some, if not all, will be familiar to long-standing participants in the mod and jazz dance scenes.

1. ‘Miss Ann’s Tempo’ (1961) 45 – Blue Note 1811; 33 – From Grant’s First Stand BST 84064

From Green’s second Blue Note session (first to be released), ‘Miss Ann’s Tempo’ was also his debut single for the label, coupled with his version of Porter Grainger’s blues standard ‘Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I do’. A trio date, with Ben Dixon on drums and Baby Face Willette on organ, the vibe is similar to Brother Jack Mcduff’s The Honeydripper session for Prestige recorded just a week later and also featuring Dixon and Green. Intriguingly, a track by Eric Dolphy, ‘Miss Ann’, had been recorded with Booker Little the previous October. There’s plenty of righteous call-and-response jousting here between Green’s limpid melodies and Willette’s chugging chords and gospel-drenched soloing. One for the expert jazz dancers!

2. ‘Mambo Inn’ (1963) 45 – Blue Note 1870; 33 – From The Latin Bit BST 84111

Throughout 1961 and 1962, Green featured on around 25 Blue Note recordings and a handful for Prestige and one or two other labels. Collectors of Blue Note 45s will therefore hear his playing on singles of the period by other artists. Such mid-tempo dance floor tunes include Lou Donaldson’s ‘Watusi Jump’, Dodo Greene’s ‘You are my Sunshine’ and Don Wilkerson’s ‘Camp Meetin’. Two 1962 sessions also led, the following year, to the release of The Latin Bit, from which the Mario Bauzá-Edgar Sampson-Bobby Woodlen tune ‘Mambo Inn’ was culled for the jukebox. An uplifting blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and bluesy bop, this tune features Willie Bobo and Carlos Valdes on percussion and John Acea on piano.

3. The Cantaloupe Woman (1965) 45 – Verve VK 10361; 33 – From His Majesty King Funk Verve V/V6-8627

Likely to be heard at many a New Untouchables night, ‘The Cantaloupe Woman’ comes from Green’s only session as leader for the Verve label, 1965’s His Majesty King Funk. While this swings like an upbeat Lee Morgan tune of the era, a new modal undercurrent is present, provided by the Hammond playing of Larry Young, for whom Green had supplied guitar on his debut Blue Note LP Into Somethin! (1964). On that session, Green was reunited with Elvin Jones and sparred alongside the more avant-garde saxophone playing of Sam Rivers. Change was in the air.

4. Big John Patton: Amanda (1966) 45 – Blue Note 1926; 33 – From Got a Good thing Goin’ BST 84229

Between 1963 and 1966, Green appeared on six Blue Note LPs led by Hammond man Big John Patton. The last in the sequence, Got a Good Thing Goin’ yielded the 45 ‘Amanda’, a cooking cover of the Duke Pearson tune that kicked off his 1964 date Wahoo! Although his initial role is to vamp a rhythm, Green lets loose a cracking solo half-way through the album version. One of those addictive melodies that it’s good to know exist in edited format for the club night and in longer versions for domestic pursuits. At over nine minutes, the Pearson version (without Green) is especially wonderful as a soundtrack to preparing vegetables.

5. Ain’t it Funky Now (1970) 45 – Blue Note 1960; 33 – From Green is Beautiful BST 84342

On July 1, 1966, Grant Green played on Stanley Turrentine’s Rough ‘n’ Tumble, a date including the wonderful singles: ‘And Satisfy’ (Blue Note 1929) and ‘Feeling Good’ (Blue Note 1933). Apart from a solitary 1967 date later released on Cobblestone as Iron City (1972), he would then be absent until early 1969. By this time, rock, boogaloo and funky soul were entering new dialogues with jazz; the period from 1969-1972 would see Green return as a key figure in the groove-based styles later defined as acid jazz. Much of 1969 was seen recording with Prestige artists such as Rusty Bryant, Charles Kynard and Don Patterson and Reuben Wilson’s enjoyable Blue Note date Love Bug. By October, he was leading his own sessions, one of which, 1970’s Green is Beautiful, gave us the monumental groove ‘Ain’t it Funky Now’, released as a Parts 1 & 2 single. Idris Muhammad’s marvellous drumming helps make this take on James Brown a memorable one.

6. Sookie Sookie (1970) 45 (edit): – Blue Note 1965; 33 – From ‘Alive!’ BST 84360

From the subsequent Blue Note LP, recorded live in August 1970 at the Cliche Lounge in Newark (New Jersey as opposed to Nottinghamshire), Don Covay and Steve Cropper’s 1965 ‘B’ side is given a full funk workout. Green, organist Ronnie Foster, and tenor sax player Claude Bartee improvise righteously over a solid groove laid down by Idris Muhammad, Joseph Armstrong on congas, vibes player Willie Bivens and Foster on organ bass pedals. Some of the material Green worked on with Blue Note after 1969 was not as strong as this, but overall he could be proud of the legacy he left for the label from 1960 to 1972. We’ll be looking at more legends of the label in the future. Until then, enjoy these tunes.

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James Thomas

James Thomas was born in Bristol just the wrong side of 1970 (1971). His first encounters with the 1960s were his two-year-old elder brother’s reminiscences of the Moon Landing (since deleted by the BBC) and an afternoon in 1975 listening to the Beatles with his parents. He remembers 2-Tone and the ’79 revival, but was the one in his primary school still wearing flares until he persuaded his mum to buy him a black Harrington jacket (a stylish-enough copy by Burtons) and asked a hair stylist to make him ‘look like Suggs’. In the 1980s he became obsessed with almost every aspect of the 1960s, whether it were Star Trek, the length of George Harrison’s hair in March 1965 or the first colour TV broadcast of a cricket match (he thinks it was 1968). After being side-tracked by progressive rock (an ongoing guilty pleasure), James came to his senses in 1986 on seeing footage of Booker T and the MGs and Otis Redding on a programme celebrating the 60th anniversary of television. A flirtation with ‘indie pop’ (in the bowl-cut and anorak days) led to too much introspection, but also a new interest in the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s that seemed to go hand in glove with a liking for The Pastels and The Razorcuts. A summery afternoon in the jazz tent at Bristol’s annual (and long gone) Ashton Court Festival in 1989 opened his mind to the sounds of Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey and most forms of modern jazz. In 1990, James attended his first proper 60s club night, the revered Kaleidoscope Pop! in Leeds. On his return from the North in 1992, he developed a new commitment to Mod culture. He recalls early Untouchables Brighton New Year rallies and in 1994 moved to London. A real education for him (in so many ways...) was a period in Barcelona (1997-2002) where he helped out with the Magic in the Air club for a year or two and where his IQ was permanently reduced by a record dealer who made him clean vinyl for four weeks in a windowless room. After a decade or so in the West Country, he is now living again in London, where he plans to write about jazz, meet like-minded people and study the history of the cravat.

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June 30, 2017 By : Category : Bands,Front Page,ModJazz,Music,Picks Tags:, , , ,
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