This is some apotheosis of both jazz-funk and Grant Green, just when you thought Blue Note was practicing overexposure by adding yet another Green disk to last year's three discs worth of funky compilations. But this live session, which spent 35 years in the vault, transcends all previous Grant Green funk sessions by a mile.
A lot of the credit has to go to the pluperfect chemistry of the band. Green may have been Blue Note's most erratic artist of the '60s and '70s, but the key to his best work involved matching him with a drummer who kept him steady and on-task. Art Blakey did this for the bop-flavored Green, and Idris Muhammad did it during his funk period. Muhammad enlivened a lot of other Green sessions, though, so part of the magic of this gem needs to be explained by the fiery tenor saxophonist Houston Person and the totally obscure but piercing soprano saxophonist Clarence Thomas, perhaps woodshedding to get through law school (just kidding).
The eight tunes are nothing special, often one or two-chord pieces that the band dances around with uncanny creativity. "Walk On By" seems an odd tune in this context, but maybe the lyrics touched some sappy sentimentality in Green's heart. No matter. The musicians ruthlessly rip into it until they sound like a house band at a fundraiser for the '71 Oakland, California Black Panthers. The crowd, however, sounds comatose, which is perhaps a plus, since a rowdy, drunk audience might have interfered with hearing the tasty licks.
The title of the final track sums up Grant Green's career as well as this generously programmed 76-minute funk fest: "I Am Somebody." I think it took Green a lot of years to figure out the somebody he was. This recording is evidence that at the end of his life, he did find his truest musical identity. He was a fierce funk improviser, and no studio session caught the firebut this live session does.
Jan Jan; Farid; Bottom Of The Barrel; Walk On By; More Today Than Yesterday; One More Chance; Patches; I Am Somebody.
Clarence Thomas: soprano and tenor saxophone; Houston Person: tenor saxophone; Grant Green: guitar; Ronnie Foster; organ; Idris Muhammad: drums.
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