June Feature: Grant Green

May 31, 2013

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Not that we really needed an excuse, but with June 6th as his birthday, Night Train and Straight No Chaser will spend the month of June celebrating the music of Grant Green.

Green was born in St. Louis in 1935, and before he hit his teens, he was playing professionally. After early R&B gigs and some work with sax man Jimmy Forrest (the fellow who had a hit with the song "Night Train"), he was hired by Lou Donaldson and headed to New York.

Donaldson did Green another favor by introducing him to Blue Note's Alfred Lion. Soon he was one of the labels top session players, appearing on a host of releases through the '60s by such players as Hank Mobley, Stanley Turrentine, Jack McDuff, Jimmy Smith and Herbie Hancock, as well as recording classic albums of his own including Green Street, Idle Moments, and Grantstand.

The Grant Green classic "Idle Moments" -- 

Green was one of the finest guitarists of the era, even if he was not as successful as some, known for his distinctive and inventive single-note lines, and ability to move with ease through bop, spirituals, Latin-tinged sounds and soul jazz.

After a break in the late '60s, Green returned with more funk influenced work, dismissed by some in the jazz world, but an inspiration to later acid jazz, soul and funk fans and players alike. In all, he recorded over 30 albums under his own name, and appeared on over twice as many as a sideman. Here's a rundown of his discography.

A later Grant Green favorite, "Ain't It Funky Now" -- 

Green suffered a heart attack and died in 1979. He was survived by six children, including a guitar-playing son who took the stage name of Grant Green, Jr. Throughout June, Night Train features the music of Grant Green as a leader and sideman, along with music from his son, tribute albums, and covers of his songs.