Sunday, 17 February 2013

Review: Grant Green - Grant's First Stand


Grant Green is my favourite guitarist, jazz or otherwise. My love affair with his distinct clipped guitar sound and soulful varied sounds began when bought a tatty copy of his d├ębut album from a record store, based entirely on impulse  The first time I heard the album through I was hooked, and over the course of three years worked to acquire all of his recordings, available or otherwise. To this day I'm still working to pick-up most of the remaining albums where he worked as a side-man, and there's a lot - Lou Donaldson, George Braith, Horace Parlan, Hank Mobley, Herbie Hancock - but it's a treasure hunt I'm loving every minute of.


Grant Green has sadly suffered in the eyes of posterity somewhat, mainly due to the sporadic availability of parts of his catalogue, and also the relative domination of other contemporary jazz guitarists Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell, and later George Benson, Pat Metheny, John Scofield and others. As good and as influential as all of these players are, history has unfortunately and unkindly put Green firmly on the sidelines, with just a brief interest re-ignited in his work in the nineties thanks to the equally brief acid-jazz years.

Thankfully, now facing a decent catatlogue availability push by Blue Note and its superb Rudy Van Gelder remaster series, ‘Grant’s First Stand’, his debut as bandleader for the label, now fills in the holes of his earlier days and shows us just what a great talent he really was.

An organ trio format, often the home of many of Green’s best work, makes up the sound, with the relatively unknown ‘Baby Face’ Willette handling the organ work, supplying a strong bass role as well as some nice fills and strong solos, and Ben Dixon on drumming duties. Together this small group gets off to a cracking start on the high energy ‘Miss Anns Tempo’, with Green showing all the qualities of his signature sound in spades. His one-note runs too are a stellar highlight everywhere on this recording.

Compositionally, Green’s other tunes are just as strong too with ‘Blues For Willareen’ deserving to have become a standard just from its intro alone. The improvisation all over this album is good too, making you wonder why we never saw much from either Willette or Dixon. Very little is wrong with this set, with the exception of the organ occasionally sounding just a little ‘off’, but not distractingly so. Dixons drumming too is superbly tight throughout and Green’s guitar work is frankly top-notch.

More than just filling in the missing gaps of Green’s earlier years, ‘Grant First Stand’ is a great recording and genuinely deserves to be mentioned alongside the recordings of Montgomery and Burrell. Criminally under-rated, this comes recommended for anyone with an interest in guitar or early soul-jazz.

*****

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