Grant Green: Green is Beautiful (1970) Blue Note Liberty UA

Grant-Green-is-Beautiful--cover-1800-LJC

Selection:  Ain’t I funky now (James Brown)

Artists

Blue Mitchell (trumpet) Claude Bartee (tenor saxophone) Emmanuel Riggins or Neal Creque (organ) Grant Green (guitar) Jimmy Lewis (electric bass) Idris Muhammad (drums) Candido (congas) Richie “Pablo” Landrum (bongos) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 30, 1970

Music:

I had not played much of the small jazz funk side of my collection for some time, plumbing instead the more advanced areas of the genre, more “difficult” listening. However while researching recently the largely undocumented United Artists Blue Note years – to correct some of my earlier misconceptions of what when and who – I found myself eyeball to eyeball with Seventies  jazz funk, the groove that  Blue Note label and bop survivors of the previous decade moved on to,  to put bread on the table:  Donald Byrd, Bobby Hutcherson, Grant Green, plus a raft of new players. It led me to pull some old friends off the shelf, take time to re-evaluate. I count fourteen Grant Green titles and Green is Beautiful is the most “modern”, only forty four years old.

There is something in Grant Green’s playing style tells us who he is, what sort of person he is. Linear melodic lead lines, clean, exuding calmness, benevolent, rhythmic,  he loves to play, he just wants to play. Its a good groove, and not too smooth, not tipping over into the octave-pairing stylist  George Benson or the master of easy-listening guitar, Earl Klugh; eschewing the theatrics of rock guitar which had come to dominated the airwaves, Grant is his own man. The electric bass, multiple percussion and gritty organ keep it lowdown and groovy. Idris Muhammad doesn’t artfully seduce the drum kit, he beats the crap out of it: submit to the beat.  The turntable briefly spins to the sound of the funky-chicken, a temporary respite from the tortured souls of the New York avant-garde. I think it liked it.

Does this mean you will be joining the followers of the funky chicken LJC?

LJC-Afro-fastshow17Somehow I don’t think I will be venturing out on the dance floor any time soon. It is a while since I practiced my moves, which have gone past the merely embarrassing, to the point of being orthopaedically hazardous, and a health and safety risk to others on the dance floor. Nodding to the groove should suffice. Got to love James Brown: Get on up, get on down, like a fax machine

What I do like about this variety of1970 jazz funk is that it is an ensemble creation of real musicians. The accents vary from one cycle to another within the groove, because its emanating from real people jamming together, it’s organic, not a lap-top confection of symmetrically repeating samples.
Cover Art

There is something enormously positive about Grant Green, and it is captured in that strangely incomplete cover portrait, mixing  detailed art nouveau line-drawing of nature with stylized monochrome photography, and a “missing” blank area, playing with figure and ground. It’s a good cover of its day credited to one Bob Venosa, on the cusp between the Sixties and Seventies, leaving behind Francis Wolff chiaroscuro portraiture and bold Reid Miles design, but not yet hippy-kitsch, bellbottom-flares and big hair, see you at the car-wash. That was all still to come.1970. Send for Shaft.

Vinyl: BST 84342

Liberty UA  Black/Lt Blue label VAN GELDER  143 gm vinyl. “Original” I believe

Got to love these 1971-2 Liberty UA pressings. Twelve in my collection, of which two are poor and ten excellent. Of the poor, one is an ill-advised “rechanneled for stereo”, which when played, is effectively mono with around 15% of the upper register missing. Ugh. Luckily Liberty UA managed to source Van Gelder Stereo masters for all of the true stereos, some including his early ideas about instrument placement.

Grant-Green-is-Beautiful-labels-1800-LJC

Grant-Green-is-Beautiful--rear-cover-1800-LJC

Collector’s Corner

Source: West London Soul record store, catering for the ageing dance-floor fans and people who go to Northern Soul “Weekenders”. No “shoe gazing” here, most of the guys I see shopping there haven’t seen their feet for years. Proprietor Laurence is also a jazz aficionado, though it’s icing on the cake from a business point of view. Haven’t been over for some while, may be time for a trip West.

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14 thoughts on “Grant Green: Green is Beautiful (1970) Blue Note Liberty UA

  1. I love Grant Green. His style reminds me a bit of Freddie Robinson, another great jazz-funk-blues guitarist who also worked with Blue Mitchell. Very funky.

  2. I’ve really got to stop frequenting your blog, it’s just costing me more money every visit! I’m in for some Grant Green now, I wonder how much your postings affect current ebay trends lol. Seriously though, this has been my go-to place for several months now, I feel like I owe you *something*, thanks for all that you do!

    • Gee it’s nothing (false modesty) my pleasure, SS70s. Every time I look at a newsstand and see all these lame leisure and hobby magazines, cars, sports, phones, I never see anything about music like vintage vinyl jazz. We are on a mission, and we are on our own. Hang in there.

  3. some funk is good for you every so often. this is very tasteful.

    have you heard count basie’s “afrique” on flying dutchman? 1970, arranged by oliver nelson, features versions of ayler, szabo, and sanders by the friggin’ basie big band. most of the cuts have electric bass too. very weird. but i like it.

    • I found Afrique a strangely fascinating album when I first heard it forty years ago, and I still put it on from time to time. Some excellent solo work here (Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Hubert Laws, Buddy Lucas), and the Basie band sounds OK even in this “weird” context.

      • I’ve been listening to this again recently and the thing that struck me was how excellent, and modern Basie’s solos sound. I think this is one of the best later Basie’s.

  4. Outstanding choice and part of my seventies funk collection. Another superb recommendation is “Grant Green Alive!”, recorded at the Cliché Lounge in Newark, NJ on August 15th 1970. Much of that particular album has been sampled by many acts; one of the reasons I started digging for this music so frantically. Indeed stuff for a packed dance floor on a hot summer night 🙂

    • Matty, such memories. The version of Sookie Sookie was one of my go to records when I DJed back then. Always filled the floor and at ten minutes long was also perfect for a bathroom break.

      Green really fits in with funk, and doesn’t get overwhelmed by it, allowing his own individuality to shine through. Nice choice of Green Is Beautiful as it is probably his albums from this period that I’m least familiar with. This blog makes me want to did it out and give it a listen, which I will do today.

      • Aha, yes, “Sookie Sookie”. Floorfiller up to this day. Thankfully I still DJ, not that much anymore, but I still do. And you’re right: the perfect track to take a quick leak 😉

  5. Jazz and funk are my opiates of choice. I got into funk through listening to 70’s Miles Davis. The leap from Davis’s Agharta to Sly and the Family Stone and The Meters really isn’t that big.

    Really enjoyed listening to this track, thanks LJC.

  6. Well say what you will about jazz funk, but I threw on Charles Earland’s “Black Talk” and couldn’t help getting up on my feet and dancing all by myself. It’s just that infectious of an album. Of course the guitarist on that album,Melvin Sparks, isn’t even close to Grant Green it’s still a great album and exemplary of jazz funk…I’ll have to add these Green album to the want list.

  7. I enjoyed listening to this excellent version of ‘Ain’t it Funky Now’. It led me to dig out my 7″ copy of James Brown’s original: ‘Ain’t it Funky Now’ Parts 1 & 2 (UK Polydor 56793, licensed from King Records, USA). I can remember buying it from Spin Inn Records in Manchester- probably in about 1973. A listen to it through my current hi fi system allowed me to review what James Brown was actually saying when he spoke of what I initially heard as ‘…a taste of orchid’. It is now clear that he was actually asking for ‘…a taste of organ’. Oh well! that’s cleared away that particular image of imagined exotica for me then. The rest of the album sounds very listenable too.

    Many may probably agree that is refreshing to listen to a variety of musical styles and a slab of funk is great every so often. For my part, I’m very much looking forward to former JBs, Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley at Ronnie Scotts at the end of Feb.

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