Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Grant Green

Grant Green (St. Louis, Missouri, June 6, 1935 – New York, January 31, 1979; some sources erroneously give the birth year as 1931) was a jazz guitarist and composer.

Recording prolifically and almost exclusively for Blue Note Records (as both leader and sideman) Green performed well in hard bop, soul jazz, bebop and Latin-tinged settings throughout his career. Critics Michael Erlewine and Ron Wynn write, "A severely underrated player during his lifetime, Grant Green is one of the great unsung heroes of jazz guitar ... Green's playing is immediately recognizable -- perhaps more than any other guitarist."Critic Dave Hunter described his sound as "lithe, loose, slightly bluesy and righteously groovy". He often performed in an organ trio, a small group with an organ and drummer.

Apart from Charlie Christian Green's primary influences were saxophonists, particularly Charlie Parker, and his approach was therefore almost exclusively linear rather than chordal. The simplicity and immediacy of Green's playing, which tended to avoid chromaticism, derived from his early work playing rhythm and blues and, although at his best he achieved a synthesis of this style with bop, he was essentially a blues guitarist and returned almost exclusively to this style in his later career. Green used a Gibson ES-330, then a Gibson L7 with a Gibson McCarty pickguard/pick-up, an Epiphone Emperor (with the same pick-up) and finally had a custom built D'Aquisto. George Benson said he would turn all the bass and treble off the amp, and max the midrange. This way he could get his signature punchy, biting tone.

He first performed in a professional setting at the age of 12. His influences were Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Ike Quebec, Lester Young, Jimmy Raney, Jimmy Smith and Miles Davis, he first played boogie-woogie before moving on to jazz. His first recordings in St. Louis were with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest for the Delmark label. The drummer in the band was Elvin Jones, later the powerhouse behind John Coltrane. Grant recorded with Elvin again in the early Sixties. Lou Donaldson discovered Grant playing in a bar in St. Louis. After touring together with Donaldson, Grant arrived in New York around 1959-60.

Many of Grant's recordings were not released during his lifetime. These include Matador, in which Grant is once again in the heavyweight company of the Coltrane rhythm section, and a series of sessions with pianist Sonny Clark. In 1966 Grant left Blue Note and recorded for several other labels, including Verve. From 1967 to 1969 Grant was, for the most part, inactive due to personal problems and the effects of heroin addiction. In 1969 Grant returned with a new funk-influenced band. His recordings from this period include the commercially successful Green is Beautiful and the soundtrack to the film The Final Comedown. Grant was also a huge influence on guitarists, from George Benson to Stevie Ray Vaughan. Still to this day guitarists try to get his signature sound, Idle Moments is consider one of the top 100 jazz albums of all time.

Grant left Blue Note again in 1974 and the subsequent recordings he made with other labels divide opinion: some consider Green to have been the 'Father of Acid Jazz' (and his late recordings have been sampled by artists including US3, A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy), whilst others have dismissed them (Michael Cuscuna wrote in the sleeve notes for the album Matador that "During the 1970s he made some pretty lame records").

Grant spent much of 1978 in hospital and, against the advice of doctors, went back on the road to earn some money. While in New York to play an engagement at George Benson's Breezin' Lounge, Grant collapsed in his car of a heart attack in New York City on January 31, 1979. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and was survived by six children. Since Green's demise, his reputation has grown to legendary status and many compilations of both his earlier (post-bop/straight ahead and soul jazz) and later (funkier/dancefloor jazz) periods, exist.



Am I Blue - Grant Green (1963)
 












01 - Am I Blue
02 - Take These Chaints From My Heart
03 - I Wanna Be Loved
04 - Sweet Slumber
05 - For All We Know


LINEUP:
Grant Green (Guitar)
Joe Henderson (Tenor Sax)
Johnny Coles (Trumpet)
Big John Patton (Organ)
Ben Dixon (Drums)
Rudy Van Gelder (Recording Engineer and Remastering)
Recorded 16 May 1963.







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