Thursday, November 17, 2005

Carryin' On with Grant Green

Carryin' On
Blue Note BST-84327

Recorded 1969

1. Ease Back (5:43)
2. Hurt So Bad (6:45)
3. I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I'll Get It Myself) (6:07)
4. Upshot (9:58)
5. Cease the Bombing (8:50)


Grant Green: Guitar
Claude Bartee: Tenor Sax
Willie Bivens: Vibes
Clarence Palmer: Electric Piano
Earl Neal Creaque: Electric Piano (on “Cease the Bombing” only)
Jimmy Lewis: Fender Bass
Idris Muhammad: Drums

Imagine being Grant Green in 1969. So long the second best, second most well-known, second most successful jazz guitarist (behind Wes Montgomery), and now thrust into the limelight as Wes's successor following his untimely death in 1968. How would you react? Carry on playing straight soul jazz as you had been doing, or attempt to broaden your appeal?

Grant decided to do the latter, and in the process delivered one of his best recordings, as well as one of the finest jazz-funk records of all time. He achieved this by incorporating a strong funk element into his music, based on his appreciation of artists such as James Brown (marked by his cover of '
I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I'll Get It Myself)'). This change in his sound didn't sit well with some - the jazz purists deriding it as 'selling out' - but to my ears, Green's playing sits well with the laid-back funk backdrop created by Jimmy Lewis and the ever-wonderful Idris Muhammad. I've always admired Green's light touch and 'slippery' lines that seem to glide over the rhythm section, and this quality is enhanced by the elastic properties of the funk.

The album has two standout tracks - a cover of the Meters' 'Ease Back' (which also features some great playing by the relatively unknown tenor, Claude Bartree) and
Earl Neal Creaque's 'Cease The Bombing'. The latter stands as one of Green's more overtly political pieces, with it's title directly referencing the war in Vietnam. It's also one of his best - a melodic slice of laid-back funk whose mood of relaxed contemplation (and catchy tune) perfectly fits the anti war sentiment. Green was to continue in this vein for the rest of his career, in albums such as 'Green Is Beautiful' and 'The Final Comedown'.

Looking for a comprehensive Grant Green discography? You could do worse than start here. This site has a nice biography as well as details about many of his recordings. It's also had the seal of approval from Grant Green Jr.!

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