Minor League is a cracking Duke Pearson swinger from a classic Blue Note session recorded in 1964, not released until the late 70’s (King, Japan and UA, LT series)
James Spaulding (alto sax) Joe Henderson (tenor sax) McCoy Tyner (piano) Grant Green (guitar) Bob Cranshaw (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, June 12, 1964
Recording here at age 28, Green’s heart gave out at the age of 43, in 1979.
The selection Minor League is a classic Blue Note composition, with instant recognition of the Blue Note sound. “The head gives off that really hip, quartal harmony that really rose to prominence in the 60’s. “The strong brass presence also eliminates any lingering concern it might be just a guitar album. Joe Henderson!
Green has a soul-jazz feeling on Solid, soft warm tone in unison with the brass, at times sounding more Hammond B3 than guitar, fluid linear melodic exploration of the compositions. He has an unusual pairing of horns – Joe Henderson’s gruff tenor with James Spaulding’s bright alto. Henderson has a hard, fractious tone, his athletic figures covering the entire register of the tenor, while Spaulding does a credible job just holding his own.
Tyner contributes characteristically elegant sweeping forms, left hand chopping accents against the right hand’s fluid exploration of the upper keys. Elvin Jones more than hints at the power below, punishing the ride cymbal to mark time. (Jones is a mixed blessing on Green albums. Here he is well controlled, but on Matador – Bedouin, he treats us to a long and out-of-place drum solo – the type which clears the auditorium and fills the bar). As always, the bass is the forgotten hero, Bob Cranshaw modestly holding everyone together.
The mid ’60’s Blue Note line-ups generated a huge amount of sessions which never saw the light of day until Michael Cuscuna unearthed them for the LT and King issues. They are the first pressings of RVG recordings, though mastered by later house engineers and not Van Gelder. Instead of writing cheques to Ebayers for “original insanely-rare early Blue Notes”, it is well worthwhile exploring this rich seam of mid 60’s previously unissued sessions. There are many that merited release at the time but were held back due to avoid overloading the market.
Vinyl: King GXK-8187
King Unissued Masters Series issue of LT 990 – factory sample white label pressing, 1981. There is no original release back in the Blue Note years, original 1st press is United Artists LT 990 (1980) followed in quick succession by Japan (1981). The LT is more likely sourced from original tapes, and Japan from copy tape, if that makes any difference (I think it does, to the disadvantage of the Japanese)
Collectors Corner: what’s the alternative?
LT 990 – Solid, United Artists Blue Note Jazz Classics
Selection: Minor League (UA issue)
Judge for yourself.
Despite the reputation and generally high quality of reissues by King, to my ear, the LT offers a more lively, punchy presentation. I engage with it more, the King feels slightly slow and disengaging. It’s a common phenomenon in head to head comparison: it isn’t really slower, but it feels slower, your brain is trying to tell you something. The LT is more readily available, fantastic value, but it doesn’t have a green cover. But a snooker cue ball?
The LT series sound a lot better than I originally thought, uneven quality, some are better than others, though a lot of cable upgrades since those early days have helped everything sound better.
Capitol Connoisseur jump in (1995)
I don’t have this, because two’s plenty, but they are generally quite satisfying listen.
2009 the LT series reissued in a familiar cover design, but brown? What were they thinking, solids, babies nappies? The name is Green. Grant Green. As in the colour “green“, got it?
More Grant Green: Japan-only releases
As with Lee Morgan , Grant Green was treated with the same reverence by TokyoJazzCollector, especially when graced by the presence of Sonny Clark on three of them. I have only the three top row. Just Solid and Nigeria went onto be reissued in the Liberty/United LT series. The other four had no US release at the time, just Japan-only issues with alternative covers
As always, Mosaic jump in. You can always grab the Mosiac Green/Clark boxset to get all the missing Grant Green/ Sonny Clark titles.
Our friends at Music Matters have a modern take on a couple of the Blue Note Grant Green’s including Solid and Matador on 2x45rpm. Great alt-covers, Green takes a mean Francis Wolff portrait. It’s a timely reminder of what people actually look like, instead of the tsunami of fake-smile selfies drowning us online today.
LJC READER POLL – you know you want to!
Your ten favourite Grant Green Blue Note albums from the selection of twenty five below. They are presented in approximate year of recording, to better understand the evolution of the artist.
Because I’m generous to a fault, you can nominate up to ten albums, to give some of the less well known titles a chance. If you want to nominate fewer, that’s ok too. The only Executive Order I am issuing (this morning) is that you all absolutely must vote for Idle Moments (if you want to, of course, no pressure). Any voters for The Latin Bit, my office, now, no biscuits. Omitted from poll is Blues for Lou (CD only, I think).
Votes must be cast within one week, check back to see how your favourites compare with others. You never know, you could be an outlier.
Now if you would kindly step out of my vinyl time machine, fast forward to today, Athens, Greece, wonderful city, great people (they’ve had a few thousand years more practice than some) there is a remarkable authentic ’50’s /60’s vibe of The Blue Note Trio.
I give an unsolicited recommendation to The Blue Note Trio, repertoire exclusively from Blue Note Records 1952-65, great concept! The sounds of Grant Green (Michael Papadopoulos) Jimmy Smith/Larry Young ( Leonardo Corradi) Grady Tate/ Donald Bailey (Sera Bellos), cooking today. Album covers projected on a screen. Great, 100 upticks!
The only way it could be more authentic is the percussionist adding scratches, a few repeating clicks… The Blue Note Trio (strong VG) … all part of the vinyl experience… Seriously, great stuff, I really admire what they are doing.
Give them a listen, if you love Blue Note, you will love the sound of these guys: http://www.bluenoteorgantrio.com/
They are here, performing the same Grant Green “Solid” / Duke Pearson track, Minor League.
Anything you want to add, floor is yours.