Grant Green

Album Reviews:

1965: Idle Moments

Compilation Reviews:

1997: The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark [1961–1962]

Idle Moments

Rating: 8.2/10
Rated as: Album
Album Status: Genre Classic
Released: 1965
Recorded: 1963
Specific Genre: Hard Bop
Main Genre: Jazz
Secondary Genre: Cool Jazz
Label: Blue Note

Side A: 1. Idle Moments 2. Jean de Fleur
Side B: 3. Django 4. Nomad
CD Bonus Tracks: 5. Jean de Fleur [Alternate Take] 6. Django [Alternate Take]

Awesomely suggestive exercise in good taste

Stellar jazz guitarist Grant Green and stellar vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson join forces for this terrific workout in nocturnal, silky hard bop that avoids being listlessly smooth, but is elegant, soothing and occasionally brooding. The opener „Idle Moments“ is fifteen minutes of low-key barroom depression à la grandeur. Slow, languid and winding, Green, Hutcherson and Joe Henderson take off from the beautiful motif opening and closing the number with inconspicuous but effective solos – perfect for long lonesome cognac nights. The up-tempo „Jean de Fleur“ swings hard and wouldn’t be very interesting if not for the amazing interplay between all the quartet’s members (plus soloists Hutcherson and Henderson) – there’s scarcely another formation playing as democratic, tightly balanced and hypnotising as Green and his colleagues. Green knows that solos are only as interesting as their frame and his quartet is all about this framework. The structure is the same as before, with a catchy riff starting and ending the piece, swinging solos in between.

Green’s down-tempo version on „Django“ takes its time building up and kicks into mid-tempo gear almost two minutes into the track, with another splendidly understated statement by Grant’s guitar on top of the sax-supplied riff. In its strongest moments, Idle Moments sounds like a soft-spoken but confident answer to Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue. „Nomad“ plays like a mix of the opening track and the faster swing of its followers, a fascinating twelve minutes of gentleman-bop, borrowing and quoting details of „Idle Moments“, creating a feel of careful coherence for the album.

There are no standouts in the traditional sense to speak of, because nothing sticks out of the overall quality. „Idle Moment“ is the deepest and most effective track, but the musicianship creates varieties of similar moods that invite you to rest and dwell in, each like the cool part of a pillow before you have to turn over. I couldn’t say that Hutcherson „shines“ on here for example – he just blends in perfectly, supplying even more subtle nuances to Green’s own subtle nuances. The album is really about letting yourself sink into the incessant swing these guys put down, not about the single tracks. Don’t make the mistake to dismiss this as too smooth or easy-listening – this is an awesomely suggestive exercise in good taste.

The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark

Rating: 8.0/10
Rated as: Compilation / Collection
Compilation Status: Genre Contender
Released: 1997
Recorded: 1961–1962
Specific Genre: Hard Bop
Main Genre: Jazz
Secondary Genre: Soul Jazz
Label: Blue Note

Disc 1: 1. 1. Airegin 1.2. It Ain’t Necessarily So 1.3. I Concentrate on You 1.4. The Things We Did Last Summer 1.5. The Song Is You 1.6. Nancy (with the Laughing Face) 1.7. Airegin (Alternate Take) 1.8. On Green Dolphin Street 1.9. Shadrack 1.10. What Is This Thing Called Love
Disc 2: 2.1. Moon River 2.2. Gooden’s Corner 2.3. Two for One 2.4. Oleo 2.5. Little Girl Blue 2.6. Tune Up 2.7. Hip Funk 2.8. My Favorite Things 2.9. Oleo (Alternate Take)

Setting a standard for themselves

Hard bop (with a dose of soul jazz) presented as a cloth of such high quality you barely feel it on your skin: Non-avant-garde jazz guitarist have limited possibilities to make themselves stand out. There’s only so much subtlety can do for you in clean, liquid, sharp hard bop. In this quartet setting (the Grant trio with Sonny Clark on piano), every note matters: This format does not set the scene for a soloist. Track by track, the quartet goes for a tight and hypnotic bop groove where every single instrument is in complete balance, creating an integrating whole rather than a frame to set the stage for, say, a saxophone solo. “Airegin” sounds almost too sophisticated for its own good, especially in terms of dynamics, but reveals itself as a fascinating, air-tight interplay after a few spins.

Give the nervous but flowing arpeggio of the opening track “Airegin” and then the superb follower „It Ain’t Necessarily So“ (where things really start cooking somewhere in the third minute) a deep listen and you’ll hear why this didn’t stun people in 1961 who really ought to know better: The quartet is not out to impress you. They’re busy with setting a standard sound for themselves, a kind of water-proof quality of soulful hard bop to work with. Clark’s piano is almost spinsterish at times, Green’s mid-range tone glints through the supple mid-tempo swing – as someone who personally can do without the metallic shine of horns sometimes, this selection here suits me just fine.

Recorded in 1961–62 and given the sheer quality of sound and performance, it is somewhat baffling this music was left unpublished for decades (16 of these quartet-tracks were eventually released on three albums in Japan after Green’s untimely death: 1979’s Gooden’s Corner, 1980’s Oleo and 1981’s Nigeria. Ironically, there is a more complete set of these sessions: The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Grant Green with Sonny Clark, adding the takes with saxophonist Ike Quebec, offering 30 tracks in total.