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Green Street (1961)

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Ben Tucker

As a trio, this edition of guitarist Grant Green's many ensembles has to rank with the best he had ever fronted. Recorded on April Fool's Day of 1961, the band and music are no joke, as bassist Ben Tucker and drummer Dave Bailey understand in the most innate sense how to support Green, lay back when needed, or strut their own stuff when called upon. Still emerging as an individualist, Green takes further steps ahead, without a pianist, saxophonist, or -- most importantly -- an organist. His willpower drives this music forward in a refined approach that definitely marks him as a distinctive, immediately recognizable player. It is also a session done in a period when Green was reeling in popular demand, as this remarkably is one of six recordings he cut for Blue Note as a leader in 1961, not to mention other projects as a sideman. To say his star was rising would be an understatement. The lean meatiness of this group allows all three musicians to play with little hesitation, no wasted notes, and plenty of soul. Another aspect of this studio date is the stereo separation of Green's guitar in one speaker, perhaps not prevalent in modern recordings, but very much in use then. Check out the atypical (for Green) ballad "'Round About Midnight," as the guitarist trims back embellishments to play this famous melody straight, with a slight vibrato, occasional trills, and a shuffled bridge. The trio cops an attitude similar to Dizzy Gillespie for the introduction to "Alone Together," with clipped melody notes and a bass filler from Tucker. Three of Green's originals stamp his personal mark on rising original soulful post-bop sounds, as "No. 1 Green Street" has basic B-flat, easy-grooving tenets similar to his previously recorded tune "Miss Ann's Tempo." Two interesting key changes and chord accents identify the outstanding "Grant's Dimensions" beyond its core bop bridge and jam configuration -- not the least of which contains a hefty bass solo from the criminally underrated Tucker and Bailey trading fours. "Green with Envy" should be familiar to fans of Horace Silver, as it is almost identically based on the changes of "Nica's Dream," a neat adaptation full of stop-starts and stretched-out improvising over ten minutes. (The alternate take of this one on the expanded CD reissue is a full two minutes shorter.) If this is not a definitive jazz guitar trio, they have not yet been born, and Green Street stands as one of Grant Green's best recordings of many he produced in the ten prolific years he was with the Blue Note label. ~ Michael G. Nastos