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Grant Green: Church Perch


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Guitarist Grant Green recorded two gospel-flavored leadership albums. The first was Sunday Mornin', in June 1961, and the second was Feelin' the Spirit in December 1962. Though Green would become a Blue Note studio star in the 1960s and '70s, he grew up in St. Louis and began his career at age 13 playing guitar in churches, backing a gospel vocal group.

Sunday Mornin' features Kenny Drew (p), Grant Green (g), Ben Tucker (b) and Ben Dixon (d). The album's tracks are Freedom March, Sunday Mornin', Exodus, God Bless the Child, Come Sunrise, So What and Tracin' Tracy.

Feelin' the Spirit includes Herbie Hancock (p), Grant Green (g), Butch Warren (b), Billy Higgins (d) and Garvin Masseaux (tamb). The tracks are Just a Closer Walk With Thee, Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, Go Down Moses, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child and Deep River.

In both cases, the last track was added in the digital age, when the Blue Note albums were released on CD. Green's picking style works neatly on both albums. Of the two albums, I prefer the first. Sunday Mornin' has soul and heart and is more hymnal and spiritual with a jazzier flavor. Feelin' the Spirit is funky and more rollicking, which was a bit out of character for Green.

Green remains sadly underappreciated, overshadowed by Wes Montgomery's broad, commercial thumb. Green's picking attack, melodic style and rich sound are magic. All of these qualities come into play on Sunday Mornin' and not so much on Feelin' the Spirit.

Grant Green died in 1979.

JazzWax clips: Here's God Bless the Child...

An here's Just a Closer Walk With Thee...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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