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Feelin' The Spirit (1962)

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Garvin Masseaux

Broadening his musical palette, Grant Green detoured into a number of "theme" sessions in 1962 -- the light Latin jazz of The Latin Bit; the country & western standards of Goin' West; and the best of the bunch, the old-time gospel album Feelin' the Spirit. For Feelin' the Spirit, Green takes five traditional, public-domain African-American spirituals (plus the CD bonus track "Deep River") and gives them convincing jazz treatments in a quartet-plus-tambourine setting. Green's light touch and clear tone match very well with the reverent material, and pianist Herbie Hancock is tremendous in support, serving the needs of the music and nailing the bright gospel style perfectly. Similarly, Green's playing never gets too complicated or loses sight of the melodies, yet he never runs short of ideas -- which goes to show that Feelin' the Spirit is indeed a labor of love. Opening with a jaunty "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," Green and Hancock work up an impassioned gospel fervor on "Go Down Moses," which is loaded with soulful, bluesy tradeoffs. Yet overall, the mood is fairly reflective, with Green's interpretations of "Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho," "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," and "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" pointing up the suffering and sorrow behind these standards -- with the implication that suffering still continued into 1962. That's not to say Feelin' the Spirit is a depressing album, though; it's simply infused with the spirit of the blues, which is part of the reason these songs translate so surprisingly well despite their harmonic simplicity. Green, Hancock, bassist Butch Warren, and drummer Billy Higgins keep the grooves flowing throughout, making Feelin' the Spirit a rousingly successful experiment. ~ Steve Huey