Review Summary: Elegance, flair, and personality emanate from Jazz great Grant Green’s charming second release.
In the earliest days of Grant Green’s solo career the guitar was truly the centrepiece of the music, and the recordings featuring a simple three piece band setup is possibly a large part of it. As he progressed through his career he expanded his stylistic vocabulary and explored various ends of the Jazz spectrum, incorporating an assortment of guest musicians that heavily infused their pizzazz via the piano, violin, and various brass instruments. No doubt these later albums are enjoyable and of a very high quality, but Grant’s presence on these albums is severely diminished in order to accommodate the various solo sections of the guest musicians. Albums like Green Street
place Grant’s guitar playing firmly in the spot light, and that’s truly where it shines brightest.
Grant’s been gifted with a vibrant musical brain that flourishes in his lead playing. He’s technically adept, as you’d expect from any Jazz axeman, but his unremitting incorporation of tasteful licks and memorable melodic lines in the middle of his solos are what make his guitar playing stand out. His understanding of the fretboard is noteworthy as he makes dazzling runs down the neck, playing a plethora of notes along the way but constantly with meaning & purpose. Sometimes Jazz guitarists suffer from indulging too deeply into aimless technical excursions, so it’s always pleasing to stumble upon artists that don’t forget the basic foundations of what make songs memorable. It doesn’t hurt that his tone is as smooth as honey, while his playing is smoother.
The music on the album present some of the main ingredients of the Jazz tonic; with some songs and song sections being of a slower vintage Jazz cadence akin to having a glass of whisky by the fireplace at home and reflecting on life, whilst others traverse swing territory that will get you unconsciously tapping your foot and bobbing your head to the music, much like after a few shots of Tequila. The majority of the album does tend to veer more towards the latter style and shows Grant’s more playful side. There are three original compositions and a couple of endearing “Jazz Standard” covers, one being of a certain Thelonious Monk. It seemed like a trend to cover Standards and classics in the world of Jazz back in the day, perhaps re-arranging classics whist injecting their own flavor must have been something artists relished. For me personally the original tracks stand out the most, especially the upbeat “No. 1 Green Street” and varied “Green with Envy”, clocking in at close to 10 minutes.
Grant is supported by an accomplished rhythm section whose main focus is in ensuring their contributions augment the compositions, and provide that essential sense of rhythm and groove over which Grant’s guitar playing can be more unbridled. They even get some solo spots to flex their muscles a tad more and relay that improvisational Jazz spirit.
The limitations of Green Street
lie in the complete absence of guest musicians. While being a three piece helps bring Grant’s guitar playing to the forefront, the presence of a few other instruments would have certainly enriched this album by adding even more layers to the mix, in a manner similar to Wes Montgomery’s use of guest instrumentalists, and to an extent Grant’s later releases however if his presence was considerably increased. Nevertheless I wouldn’t say this really tarnishes the overall listening experience, it just could possibly diversified it more.
At the end of the day all I'll say is take a walk down Green Street
, and I’m sure you’ll find at least a few interesting spots along the journey, and perhaps even some reasons to revisit. And if not, at the very least it’ll be a new experience, in a tinge of green.
1. No. 1 Green Street
2. Green With Envy
"Green With Envy:" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4UHiWOeJYI&list=PLzFqEh_mqdQDMNkeTkIg fI9BPq2hNmne4&index=4