Grant Green – Sunday Mornin’

Grant Green Sunday Mornin' Cover Art

Jazz guitarist Grant Green was quite the prolific musician back in 1961. He recorded numerous albums, both as a sideman and a leader, some of which were released and some which languished in the vaults for years. Luckily for the jazz buying public, Sunday Mornin’ was available on the scene back in 1961 and is currently available as a wonderful sounding RVG Remaster, complete with a bonus track from the same session.

After the awesome and highly recommended trio recording Green Street, Green comes back full force with Kenny Drew on piano, Ben Tucker on bass, Ben Dixon on drums, and a powerful selection of material. The grooves are long and laid back and they hit just a bit harder than the late night grooves found on Green Street – there is an exuberance to Green’s playing that is absolutely infectious and the band follows suit with steady rolling backing.

The album opens with “Freedom March,” a sort of lazy early funk that is just spellbinding in it’s simplicity. Green is in excellent shape here, laying deep in the cut with an unending display of inventive, melodic riffs that always seem to roll out of him with great ease. With each passing moment the grooves get thicker and yet the band manages to keep everything just loose enough to maintain a sense of fun and spontaneity. Drew rolls in with a sparkling piano solo that perfectly matches the easy going atmosphere while bassist Ben Tucker delivers a stunning and satisfying bass solo that is pure jazz in execution.

The title track follows, its sunny disposition apparent from the very first note. The band gets deep in the groove and delivers a top notch performance that includes joyful solos from Green and Drew while drummer Ben Dixon works up a storm on drums. “Exodus” features a gorgeous intro that quickly settles into a fine jazz groove. Green’s playing here is exemplary, his single line runs and expert phrasing taking center stage and yet never leaving the full beauty of the melody. Even at this early stage in his career, which many consider to be his finest, his playing was completely unique and remains a testament to his ever growing legend.

“God Bless This Child” provides a perfect backdrop to a lazy Sunday morning and features Green delivering yet another beautiful solo full of heartfelt emotion and quiet restraint. Whereas most guitarists would push too far and perhaps overplay, Green takes his time slowly building his solo to support the song and melody without an ounce of showiness – the solo exists for the song only and the entire band works together beautifully as a whole.

The quiet musical interludes on display during “God Bless This Child” are in direct contrast to the hard hitting jazz of “Come Sunrise” which speeds along at a lively pace that doesn’t let up for a moment – the drums roll and crash throughout while the bass keeps things together with supple grooves. A Green original, it shows the unique talent he had for turning simple single line riffs into burning jams played with a jazzman’s dexterity. His solo, a short and fiery study in economy, shows just what Green was capable of during this highly creative period of his career.

On Miles Davis’ “So What,” Green and company  settle into a 10 minute groove that pulls as much funk as possible out of the oft played riff. What’s always fascinating to me about Green is his ability to go from playing straight soul jazz into more abstract modal jazz, often times on the same album and sometimes in the same song. His phrasing and sense of timing is astounding – no matter how far out he gets he is always locked in the groove. Green lays back and lets Drew take over for a bit on piano in a very smooth transition which is quickly followed by another great Tucker bass solo, the band keeping a light shuffle going behind him that is just plain cool.

Sunday Mornin’ is an excellent album featuring some of the finest jazz players of the day doing what they do best. Green’s solos are all top shelf and reverberate with deep soul and gospel overtones. And while Green may be the obvious leader here, the entire band deserves full attention as they are indeed superb, delivering crisp performances and wonderful backing. There is not a weak song on the album and it easily stands as one of Green’s finest albums. Whether you are looking for pure guitar based jazz, or just fine jazz in general, you simply can not go wrong with this. Highly recommended.

Tracklist

  1. “Freedom March” – 8:42
  2. “Sunday Mornin'” – 4:01
  3. “Exodus” – 7:01
  4. “God Bless the Child” – 7:23
  5. “Come Sunrise” – 4:33
  6. “So What” – 9:48
  7. “Tracin’ Tracy” – 5:39

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