Grant Green: Main Attraction [Japan] (2001)
Grant Green: The Main Attraction (Liner notes by Arnaldo DeSouteiro)
During his brilliant career as one of the best producers in the music history, Creed Taylor (born in Lynchburg, Virginia, on May 13, 1929) has worked with some of world’s greatest guitarists: from Barry Galbraith (1919-1983) and Mundell Lowe, who took part in the Creed Taylor Orchestra albums (Lonelyville, Shock!, Ping Pang Pong) for ABC-Paramount in the late Fifties, to smooth jazz virtuoso Steve Laury, who was signed for CTI in 1995.
In between, Creed produced memorable albums for two of the best jazz guitarists ever, Wes Montgomery and George Benson, applying his Midas touch to transform them in best-selling stars. There were also the acoustic guitarists he paired with Stan Getz on legendary bossa nova albums: Charlie Byrd, Joao Gilberto, Luiz Bonfa and Laurindo Almeida. And the list goes on and on: Jim Hall, Eric Gale, Joe Beck, Jack Wilkins and Larry Coryell.
Not to mention Grant Green (June 6, 1931- January 31, 1979), the St. Louis-born unsung jazz guitar hero, who was one of the main influences on George Benson’s career, and played with Jimmy Forrest, John Coltrane, Lou Donaldson, Yusef Lateef, Herbie Hancock, Jack McDuff, Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, Jimmy Smith and Stanley Turrentine, among many others. As a leader, he recorded many albums for the Blue Note (nothing less than nine LPs only in 1961!) and Verve labels in the Sixties, although personal problems with drugs took him off the scene many times.
According to renowned jazz historian Douglas Payne, eleven years before The Main Attraction (Kudu KU-29), Grant Green and Creed Taylor had worked together at Verve a few times in 1965: on Johnny Hodges/Wild Bill Davis’ albums Joe’s Blues (V6-8617) and Wings & Things (V6-8630), as well as on Green’s own album as leader, His Majesty, King Funk (V6-8627, with Larry Young). There is also a never released session that Creed produced for Grant Green, on August 5, 1965, that has similar tunes to Green’s 1967 recording eventually issued on Muse Records under the title Iron City. Later on, the guitarist appeared in one of the first albums issued by CTI, Black Out, a session led by tenorist Fats Theus in July 1970.
For such a spontaneous musician like Grant Green, accustommed to record in a very relaxed way, sometimes cuting an entire album of six or eight tunes in a 6-hour recording session, and often playing in a jam-session atmosphere, the recording process of The Main Attraction (on March 1976) for sure represented a completely new experienece for him.
When Grant Green arrived for the sessions at Van Gelder’s studio, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, two of the basic tracks had been already done. All he needed to do was to add his guitar on the top of them. Detail: he had never heard those songs before! Only the third track, Creature, was recorded with all the musicians together in the studio, although even on that tune Creed insisted that Green should overdub his guitar solo, in order to correct a few flaws and achieve a truly perfect performance.
David Matthews was very busy on March, 1976, preparing his debut solo album for Kudu, Shoogie Wanna Boogie, as well as starting to record the basic tracks for the Benson & Farrell album on CTI. Not surprisingly, both albums feature the same musicians who took part in the rhythm section of Grant Green’s The Main Attraction: Don Grolnick (Fender Rhodes electric piano & Hohner clavinet), Will Lee (electric bass), Andy Newmark (drums) and Steve Khan (rhythm guitar). All members of the horn section also perform on Shoogie Wanna Boogie. And percussionists Sue Evans & Carlos Charles can be heard on Lalo Schifrin’s debut album for CTI, Black Widow, also recorded on March 1976!
The 19-minute long title tune, The Main Attraction, which occupied the entire Side A of the original LP issue, is not exactly a composition. We can’t say it was composed. Actually, it was built! David Matthews came in with two main riffs, played by Don Grolnick on the electric piano, and later doubled by the horn section. Don started to play those riffs, and then the other musicians joined him. That’s why, on the LP back cover, there were special thanks to Andy, Don, Steve and Will for the inspiration and groove on The Main Attraction. In fact, David Matthews credited them as co-authors.
The groove is solid like a rock, but the guest soloists seem to fly like seagulls over the cliffs. Hubert Laws, the supreme jazz flutist, plays with his usual facility and sublime tone. Michael Brecker impresses by his technical dexterity. And leader (who said leader?) Grant Green goes through the motions on this tune with impeccable phrasing. On the congas, Carlos Charles (aka Carlos Martin) interacts well with the miscellaneous percussion instruments of his partner Sue Evans (not related to Gil Evans, although a member of Gil’s Orchestra for several years). Above them all, the horn section attacks with infallible precision.
More r&b riffs and funky grooves can be found on Future Feature, a pretty happy tune very similar to the songs written by David Matthews for the Benson & Farrell album. Some critics used to call it funkzak. But, what’s wrong? The last track, Creature, the only one composed by Grant Green, is a hip blues that fascinates for its unpretentiousness, inspiring Green, Laws and Brecker to perform their sexiest solos on the album.
It’s a shame that Grant Green recorded only The Main Attraction (his first album in four years) for Kudu. With serious health problems, he was hospitalized soon after recording Easy in April 1978, dying a year later from a heart attack in Harlem. Now, his son Greg (aka Grant Green, Jr.) himself a gifted guitarist, tries to preserve his father legacy. This 2001 reissue of The Main Attraction is another good way to honor his artistry.