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Grant Green on Resonance

After establishing an industry rep as the premier archival jazz label on the scene today through a string of previously unheard recordings by such jazz giants as Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Larry Young, and Stan Getz, Resonance Records has upped the ante with its recent issue of two deluxe packages by guitar great Grant Green. Funk in France is actually two recordings in one—The Round House: Live at la Maison de la Radio in Paris, recorded with Green’s working trio on October 26, 1969; and Haute Funk: Live at the Antibes Jazz Festival, which captured Green’s organ quartet on July 18 and 20, 1970. A second package, Slick! Live at Oil Can Harry’s, documents a quintet gig at a Vancouver nightclub on September 5, 1975. Both packages, replete with extensive liner notes, rare photos, and stylish new packaging go hand-in-glove in documenting Green’s evolution into a funkier style of playing than he had pursued on his classic straight-ahead Blue Note recordings of the early 1960s.

Resonance’s resident detective, Zev Feldman, has been tracking down previously unheard tapes since joining the label. His travels have taken him to the Black Forest of Germany, where he discovered “lost recordings” by the Bill Evans Trio from 1968, resulting in 2016’s Some Other Time. Closer to home, he traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana, to sleuth out some privately owned tapes of Wes Montgomery performing in local nightclubs in 1957–58, resulting in 2012’s acclaimed Echoes of Indiana Avenue. It was because a tip from Feldman’s partners at Ina (Institut national de l’audiovisuel), a division of the Cultural Affairs of the French Government which oversees the archives at ORTF (Office de Radiodiffusion-Television Francaise), that he first learned of the existence of Green’s recordings from the Antibes Jazz Festival.

“We had previously partnered with Ina’s Christiane Lemire and Pascal Rozat on some Larry Young archival recordings (2016’s In Paris: The ORTF Recordings), and we’re continuing to find things that have never been issued before. So I inquired if there was anything else they had, and lo and behold they said, ‘We actually have these Grant Green recordings from the Antibes Jazz Festival that you might be interested in.’ So those tapes came to us through a stroke of luck. They were literally just sitting up on a shelf since 1970.”

The Round House recordings, with bassist Ridley and drummer Lamond, hint at the funkier direction Green would take in subsequent years, particularly the trio’s opening instrumental take on James Brown’s “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I’ll Get It Myself).” The rest is in a more straight-ahead vein, bridging back to his Blue Note years. There’s a swinging take on two Sonny Rollins tunes, “Oleo” and “Sonnymoon for Two,” a beautiful rendition of Jobim’s “How Insensitive (Insensatez),” and a version of “I Wish You Love” that features guitarist Barney Kessel. The organ-fueled material recorded at Antibes Jazz Festival is uncut funk, including two 20-minute jams on Green’s “Upshot” and a 27-minute romp through a rhythmically charged rock ’n’ roll classic, “Hi-Heel Sneakers.” Funk in France is available as deluxe limited edition 180-gram 3-LP vinyl set mastered by Bernie Grundman and pressed by RTI, or as a 2-CD set.

Slick!, which Feldman learned about from Gary Barclay, longtime overnight DJ of Vancouver radio station CHQM, opens with a swinging rendition of Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time.” The only thing here that distinguishes it from Green’s more straight-ahead work on his early 60s Blue Note recordings is the presence of electric piano (Emmanuel Riggins) and electric bass (Ronnie Ware). Otherwise, Green’s playing is typically brilliant—a clean, warm tone with a biting directness on his single-note lines and a penchant for nonchalantly double-timing during his exhilarating solos. Grant’s quintet, also featuring drummer Greg “Vibrations” Williams and percussionist Gerald Izzard, settles into a lovely version of Jobim’s “How Insensitive” before delving knee-deep into the funk on a medley of Stanley Clarke’s “Vulcan Princess” and the Ohio Players’ “Skin Tight” and another hard-hitting medley that segues from Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie on Reggae Woman” to an invigorating, clavinet-fueled take on the O’Jay’s 1973 hit “For The Love Of Money.” Slick! is available as a 180-gram 2-LP vinyl set or as a single CD.

Green’s driving horn-like facility was on par with his six-string contemporaries Wes Montgomery, George Benson, and Pat Martino. But there was always an extra edge of funkiness in his playing along with a patient sense of putting the rhythm right in the pocket, be it chords or single-note lines. All of that comes to the fore on these rare archival recordings.

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