There was never a dull minute when Grant was playing the guitar.
--George Benson

St. Louis, Missouri-born hard bop Jazz guitarist noted for his impressive melodic ability and adaptations of popular songs jazz standards.

A brief bio + and a little bit of style

Grant Green was born on June 6th, 1935 (though the biography present on his original records state he was born in 1931) in St. Louis and began playing guitar professionally at the age of 13, influenced by Charlie Parker and Charlie Christian (Christian was often cited by Wes Montgomery as his greatest influence) He played the local clubs and bars, recording a few songs in 1959 with friend Jimmy Forrest. In 1961, however, Lou Donaldson heard Green playing in East St. Louis and invited him to go to New York to meet with Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records. Green signed on as recording artist and a long partnership began.

1961 to 1965 was an extremely fruitful period for Green's music; he recorded (as leader and sideman) more than anyone else for Blue Note, and was featured on records of such greats as Herbie Hancock. However, all was not well for Green; like several other jazz players of the time, he had a narcotics habit and his prolific recording was perhaps as much an attempt to finance his addiction as it was a burst of creativity. Though critically acclaimed (Green was elected "Best New Artist" in 1962 by the Down Beat critics' poll) Green's records did not achieve much commercial success, while artists such as Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery were able to "break through," playing music that was very similar to Green's. Green's most respected work, usually with Sonny Clark on piano, comes from this period, and can be found on The Complete Blue Note Sessions or The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark, a record I consider as essential as The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery in terms of jazz guitarists of the time. Other highlights from the time include Idle Moments, featuring the fifteen minute title track and Green's improvisational flair throughout.

Grant played "inside" (the scale) almost always, and his records have a clean, accessible style. It is easy to overlook his prowess when simply listening to his albums, so well does he incorporate his skill so well into the song's melodies. Grant rarely played chord-based solos, preferring the clean single-note melodies, often embellished by the traditional jazz half-step slides. His style is often described as horn-like, more Sonny Rollins then Wes Montgomery. This isn't to say, however, that Green was open to the possibilities of the guitar - one listen of his recording of It Ain't Necessarily So, from The Complete Blue Note Sessions illustrates his grasp of cool and excitement all at one - a voice, probably that of drummer Louis Hayes, constantly shouts out during Green's soloing, riveted by Grant's playing. Green thrived in small group environments and this is why The Complete Quartets comes so highly recommended.

Green's later albums, after his 1969 return to recording (he'd kicked his habit and started listening to funk artists such as James Brown) are often put down as being too "commercial." Unfortunately, the music itself often confirms this, and the invention that drove his early playing so well is not as present - a bit similar to Wes Montgomery's repeated reliance on his traditional octave solos in his later years at the cost of any innovation. Green fell very ill in 1978 and was not fully recovered when he left the hospital. He died of a heart attack on January 31st, 1979.

Discography on Blue Note - adapted from allmusic.com, bluenote.com and http://www.icnet.ne.jp/~acchan/gg.htm

* - My recommendations. Ignore at will =)

Bibliography

  • Grant Green - A discography: http://www.icnet.ne.jp/~acchan/gg.htm
  • Grant Green pages: http://website.lineone.net/~johnharris/grant_green.htm
  • Grant Green - The Official Website: http://www.ophira.com/grantgreen
  • Liner notes to The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark
Note: There is a biography of Grant Green that came out in 1998 or 1999 but I haven't been able to get a hold of it. If someone has read it and feels that information from it can add to the bio above, /msg me or node it below.

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