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Valentin Caamaño: Green With Envy

James Nadal By

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Nearly forty years after his death, guitarist Grant Green is finally receiving the credit and recognition which eluded him during his lifetime. Besides having a distinctive and identifiable style, Green was the most prolific artist on the Blue Note label during the 1960's. His '61 recording of Green Street, contains the track Green With Envy, selected by Spanish guitarist Valentin Caamaño as the title for his sophomore release. Caamaño took great steps to present this record as a sincere tribute, and it certainly does justice to one of the under-appreciated giants of jazz guitar.

Working within a trio format, Caamaño is accompanied by bassist Juyma Estévez, and drummer Andrés Rivas, both proving to be knowledgeable of the material covered. Opening the set with Green's straight-ahead classic "Matador," takes guts, as this track is a complicated modal excursion, strongly connected with him, but the trio rises to the occasion and perform it as a melodic mantra. The Gershwin standard "It Ain't Necessarily So," takes on a swinging blues cadence, as bassist Estévez walks the bottom end with genuine authority and gusto.

It's back to Green with "Jean De Fleur," a brisk up-tempo number with a strong dose of dominant harmonics leading to highlighted, but controlled drum soloing at the end by Rivas. While associated with the hard-bop idiom, Green was acknowledged early on as a prodigious blues based player, and his version of "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child," is given preferential treatment. Caamaño stretches out by doing double duty in covering the piano part on the original, which was handily played by Herbie Hancock. This type of blues requires sophisticated discipline to pull off, which they do with splendid results.. Green's obvious admiration for Horace Silver is evident on the title track, which comprises the same changes as Silver's "Nica's Dream," and Caamaño adheres to the established parameters, all the while adding his own nuances to this timeless gem.

"The Kicker," by Joe Henderson, and "Oleo," by Sonny Rollins, are undertaken with a special reverence, as they represent Green interacting with two saxophone masters. Executing these two compositions as a trio, without the principal horn parts, appears extremely challenging, but they are able to capture the essence and the outcome is honest and convincing. In maintaining the focus to saxophonists contributing to the Green legacy, "Blues For Lou," was specifically composed for Lou Donaldson, the man credited with bringing Green to New York, and thus initiating his career. Caamaño who has wisely avoided imitation throughout the record, chooses the path of interpretation, playing a no-nonsense blues, without frills or flashes, going out with a deferential bow to the master.

Valentin Caamaño hails from Santiago de Compostela, in northwestern Spain. This area has generated a lot of buzz lately, as it has become the epicenter of the jazz movement in Spain. While many of his colleagues are taking the music into various directions, Caamaño, with this project, is not only going back to his own major influence by covering Green, but exposing the current generation of musicians and audience alike to where and how this music originated.

Track Listing: Matador; It Ain’t Necessarily So; Jean De Fleur; Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child; Green With Envy; The Kicker; Oleo; Blues For Lou.

Personnel: Valentin Caamaño: guitar; Juyma Estévez: double bass; Andrés Rivas: drums.

Title: Green With Envy | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Free Code Jazz Records

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CD/LP/Track Review
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Free Code Jazz Records
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