Grant Green: Idle Moments
“ 'Idle Moments' offers in its dreamlike title track, written by pianist Duke Pearson, 14:52 minutes of the most serene instrumental romancing ever put on disc. ”
> Grant Green
Guitarist Grant Green is most widely remembered today as a godfather of acid jazz, a consequence of the many groove-centric albums he recorded during his career. His debut, Grant's First Stand (Blue Note, 1961), was made with soul jazz organist Baby Face Willette and in 1965, when Green recorded an album for Verve, the label was able to title it His Majesty King Funk and face no challengers. Most of Green's later albums, particularly those made post-1970, were built around extended blues/funk jams.
Funk came naturally to Green, and he made some deep albums in the groove, but it's often forgotten that he was a singular straight-ahead player, a master of gorgeously melodic improvisation (in which the blues were rarely absent). Right from the off Blue Note also recorded him in ex-funk settings. Standards (Blue Note, 1961), a trio recording with bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Al Harewood, and Born To Be Blue (Blue Note, 1962) made with a quintet including tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec and pianist Sonny Clark, are the best of the early-1960s outings. Street Of Dreams (Blue Note, 1965), made with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, organist Larry Young and drummer Elvin Jones, was another remarkable, mid-decade set.
But the greatest "pure" jazz album Green ever made, perhaps the greatest album period, may be Idle Moments, recorded over two sessions in November, 1963, and featuring Hutcherson and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. It offers in its dreamlike title track, written by pianist Duke Pearson, 14:52 minutes of the most serene instrumental romancing ever put on disc.
The duration of the track came about by accident. Called just before midnight, "Idle Moments" was the last tune to be recorded at the first session, and the playing times of the three tracks already in the can meant it had to be no longer than 7 minutesanything over that would bust the maximum LP playing time of around 40 minutes. But due to a misunderstanding, Green soloed for 64 rather than the planned 32 bars, and Pearson, Henderson and Hutcherson followed suit, each soloing for twice as long as had been expected. Fortunately, producer Alfred Lion had the ears and wit to keep the tape machine running.
This wasn't the first time Green had recorded an extended track. At 15:02, "Blues In Maude's Flat" on Grantstand (Blue Note, 1961), made with tenor saxophonist Yusef Lateef, was a fraction longer. But the length there had been intentional; on "Idle Moments" the approaching midnight hour and general end-of-session atmosphere took over. Green's so relaxed it's almost horizontal soloa gentle cascade of fresh, unhurried, shimmering lyricismcreated a vibe which was brilliantly maintained by Pearson, Henderson and Hutcherson.
"Idle Moments" is music of rare and breathtaking beauty, but the album's other tracks are also exceptional. Two of themGreen's "Jean De Fleur" and John Lewis's "Django"were re-recorded a week or so later, in shorter versions which allowed "Idle Moments" to be included on the album in it entirety. These and the original, longer versions"Django" runs over 13 minutesare included on the CD release.
Track sequencing means that one of the last improvised notes on the disc is a rich, resonant and deliciously unexpected low-end punctuation mark from Henderson, to which the only response is a whispered "yeah" and a punch of the repeat button.