Grant Green

Retrospective 1961-66 (Blue Note Records)

Grant Green recently was featured on the cover of one of the glossy jazz magazines as the most underrated guitarist in the music's history, according to a critics' poll. This writer participated in the poll but voted for other musicians, mostly because Green always has been rated quite highly by other guitarists, while many other great players have been virtually forgotten.

In any case, it's nice to see him become the focus of some belated critical attention, and this excellent compilation provides an overview to the career of one of the hardest-swinging modern jazz pickers.

Like Wes Montgomery, Green was a Midwesterner who blew into New York in 1960 and immediately turned heads in the jazz capital, arriving as if on cue with the beginning of the music's last great decade.

He established himself as the definitive guitar voice in the funky organ trio style popularized by Jimmy Smith and others, and two of the four CDs in this package highlight Green's work with the Hammond men. We hear plenty of soulful grooving from funkmasters such as Smith, Baby Face Willette and Jack McDuff, as well as some particularly rewarding tracks with the more adventurous organists of the era, John Patton and Larry Young.

Another disc showcases Green's work with pianists and in trios, while a last brings together appearances with such outstanding horn men as Joe Henderson, Hank Mobley and Stanley Turrentine. We hear how well the guitarist fit in on classic hard-bop sessions, but it was in the funkier format that he really made his mark.

At his best, Grant Green was as solid and soulful a guitarist as any, and he's certainly heard at his best on this set.

 
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