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Grant Green: Iron City

Douglas Payne By

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For guitarist Grant Green (1931-79), the years between 1965 and 1969 were lost in a battle with drugs. His graceful, easily identifiable single note phrases had caught many listeners' attention with a wide variety of excellent Blue Note dates between 1960 and 1965. Seemingly able to master any style, he never once diminished the force or appeal of his own personality. Leaving Blue Note, he recorded two albums for Verve in 1965 (one remains unreleased), then wasn't heard from again until 1969. But somewhere in 1967, he teamed with former Lou Donaldson rhythm-mates John Patton (organ) and Ben Dixon (drums) and recorded, Iron City, his best ever organ-trio record.

Presumably recorded for then-thriving Prestige Records, Iron City was first issued in 1972 on Cobblestone Records and again in 1978 on Muse. Now that 32Jazz has introduced it on CD, a new generation of jazz listeners can hear how forceful the guitarist could be in the right funk. Freed from the constraints of well-rehearsed Blue Note staidness, Green and company let loose here in a rip-roaring, mostly up-tempo program of solid winners.

Green's own "Iron City" is one of his catchiest funk pieces and Patton and Dixon are down, deep in the groove. This trio even swings Luis Bonfa's sticky-sweet, overplayed "Samba de Orfeu" so hard its titled "Samba de Orpheus." "Old Man Moses," (which Green first covered in 1962 on the excellent Feelin' the Spirit ), is the disc's centerpiece. Stating the theme, the trio works itself into "A Love Supreme" groove and responds with praiseworthy playing that shows how well good heads can work the feet.

Patton is especially muscular and memorable here and, overall, pulls off one the best performances of his career (acid-jazzers could find plenty of meaty samples here too). "High Heeled Sneakers" and "Work Song" are the standard soul-jazz warhorses - but each gets thorough, no-holds-barred workouts from Green and crew. The moody blue of "Motherless Child" (another return to Feelin' the Spirit ) is also sensitively - and intuitively - handled by the trio, but in a way that does not compromise toward sentimentality.

The disc's sound is pristine and really brings out Patton's pedalwork and Dixon's subtle technique more than the old records did. Iron City is, if not Green's best organ-trio record, surely his last "great" recorded performance. After returning to active recording in 1969, he resorted to mostly mindless vamps, rehashed pet licks and, too often, the company of associates and material well beneath his talent. Iron City suggests that only the best was to still to come.

Tracks:Iron City; Samba de Orpheus; Old Man Moses (Let My People Go); High Heeled Sneakers; Motherless Child; Work Song.

Personnel: Grant Green: guitar; Big John Patton: organ; Ben Dixon: drums.

Title: Iron City | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: 32 Records

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