When Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel, Martin Taylor and a few others joked about an ensemble The Great Guitars, they were being modest. The name was accurate, guitar being short for guitarist, and applies also to Grant Green. He died altogether too young, having however been well served by Blue Note, first in recording a swatch of sessions whose issue wasn’t commercially viable at the time, but which have come out and been much admired since Green’s death. I do read that also, during the 1961-65 period of Green’s too short heyday, he appeared on more Blue Note sessions, whether as leader or sideman, than anybody else on the then independent company’s books. That was simply musical good sense. Second, Blue Note also did a mutually beneficial thing in recording Green later on in the more commercial format he made a living playing in. The results were much less in musical terms, not to be compared to for instance Green’s Blue Note work with the gigantic tenor saxophone of the under-appreciated and also prematurely departed Ike Quebec, or on terrific Delmark recordings with another major tenorist, Jimmy Forrest, worth mentioning to indicate that Green’s playing was by no means confined stylistically to hard bop or organ-guitar performances. He shouldn’t be saddled with a narrowed reputation. While I hope this music boiled the pot for Green at a hard time for many jazzmen, there’s no special reason to bother with it. Where the notes suggest a level of intense excitement on some of these later tracks, as in other recent inlay notes on other musicians playing not dissimilarly tame things, one might incline to think their writer had led an unduly sheltered existence.
// Notes from the Road
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