Grant Green: Street Of Dreams (2009)
Grant Green (1931-79) is probably the most sampled guitarist of his generation, and is rightly regarded as a godfather of acid jazz. His debut, Grant's First Stand (Blue Note, 1961)heavy on the good foot groovewas made with soul jazz organist Baby Face Willette, and by 1965, when Green recorded an album for Verve, the label was able to title it, accurately enough, His Majesty King Funk. Many of Green's post-1970 recordings were built around extended, vamp or ostinato driven jams.
But along with a singularly melodic take on funk and blues, Green was capable of considerable harmonic and contextual sophistication. His legacy in this regard has been overshadowed by that of Wes Montgomery (1925-68), an altogether more polished player; but during the early part of his career, with the Blue Note label, Green made a handful of the hard bop era's most enduring albums. Of these, the greatest may be the laidback and exquisitely lyrical Idle Moments (Blue Note, 1963)in which Green shared the frontline with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson and vibraphonist Bobby Hutchersonwhose dreamlike title track offers 14:52 minutes of the most serene instrumental romancing ever put on disc. While Henderson plays with sumptuous elegance throughout, much of the album's magic comes from the pairing of Green's guitar and Hutcherson's vibraphone.
Not far behind Idle Moments, however, and with the same mellifluous, late night ambiance, comes Street Of Dreams (Blue Note, 1964). Like the earlier album, Street Of Dreams has been reissued as part of Blue Note's ongoing RVG strand (a series of albums remastered by original recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder and often, though not in this case, including previously unissued alternate takes).
For Street Of Dreams, Green was reunited with Hutcherson. But there's no horn player or bassist, and the lineup is completed by organist Larry Young and drummer Elvin Jones. Young was famously described around this time as "the Coltrane of the organ," and Jones, of course, was in 1963 the drummer in saxophonist John Coltrane's classic quartet. On Street Of Dreams, this potentially turbulent duo seem to relish kicking back into Grant and Hutcherson's mellow groove.
Compared to Idle Moments, which was distinguished by pianist Duke Pearson's thoughtful arrangements, Street Of Dreams feels more like a blowing sessionsimple heads serve as jumping off points for solos, served out pretty evenhandedly, from Green, Hutcherson and Young. The choice of material, however, delivers an abundance of structural and harmonic interest. Each of the four tunes (none of them originals) takes a few surprising twists along its way, and only the title track had, in the mid-1960s, much jazz currency. "Lazy Afternoon," which Green successfully recasts from 4/4 to 5/4, had been pretty widely recorded by vocalists. "Somewhere In The Night" had, in the mid-1950s, been the theme for the TV series The Naked City, but had yet to be widely picked up by jazz players.
Bittersweet and beautiful, Street Of Dreams will be enjoyed by anyone who loves Idle Moments, and its inclusion in the RVG series is very welcome.
Track Listing: I Wish You Love; Lazy Afternoon; Street Of Dreams; Somewhere In The Night.
Personnel: Grant Green: guitar; Bobby Hutcherson: vibraphone; Larry Young: organ; Elvin Jones: drums