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Soul Stream

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maybe this is an outgrowth of the album of the week thing. but many times i pull out the same cds or albums over and over again. these are evergreens that never get old. so let me begin...

"Am I Blue" by Grant Green on Blue Note. Damn, that's one of my favorites.... And let me tell you why...

This one got a lot of abuse when RVG'd. An odd left-field pick I must admit. However, since this session doesn't jump right out at you, many just discarded it as a 'decent' but not truely worthy outing. My first reaction was the same as most when i first heard it. A bit dissappointed. The lineup looks so fiery! When you pop it in...snoozeville. Or so I thought. But I kept coming back to it despite my initial misgivings.

If listened to in the right frame of mind, this session can be almost hypnotic. But don't be misled, this isn't muzak or smooth jazz. These 5 musicians are all masters of restraint, note-placement and honest soulfulness. What they do on "Am I Blue" requires just as much musicanship as blowing bebop phrases at killer tempos. I love that too, don't get me wrong. But the way Grant plays the head on 'am i blue' is just gorgeous. The spainish have a word describing such restrained emotional outpouring...it's called "Duende," and Grant has it.

johnny coles is all about finesse and understatement, and lays himself out in full view here. His approach is more than a little miles influenced, but that doesn't take away from his emotive playing. A squeek here or note flub there makes me realize all the more the concept he's driving at... that is, trying to play the notes he's hearing in his head. A process all musicians strive for, but few actually achieve. For an example of what i'm talking about, listen to his 16 bar statement over the AA sections of "I Wanna Be Loved." Johnny really suspends time and space. By the time Grant comes in for the B section, Coles has told his story of tenderness.

joe henderson blows so easy, bluesy... and logically(!) on this session. Every tenor player that has learned "inner urge" should also learn Joe's one chorus solo on "take these chains from my heart." nothing mind blowing, but that's his point. he's playing the music, not just blowing for the sake of 'being hip'....take note horn players....

and john patton. last but not least. he's a bit of a supportive player on this one. but that's what's called for and he does it with beatiful chords, rhythm and tasteful solos when called upon. the anti-jimmy smith. Check out his use of the leslie slow-to-fast speed switch throughout "sweet slumber." he also has some nice left-hand basswork, and is accenting and laying on the pedals, off and on, quite a bit during this cut (especially in his solo turn, also listen to how he brings it all back so nice and smooth when his solo comes to a close. A fine example of the merits of relaxation, the hardest thing to achieve on a b3 when you've got all limbs in action).

For all we know is 14 minutes long and for good reason. listen to how they build this one up. joe henderson is having some fun during his solo. you can feel his 'give me some more' attitude as he takes chorus after chorus. same for grant on this track, he just can't stop himself from blowing over this groove...thus the length of the tune. 14 minutes is a hell of a long time for any track. But I don't consider this kind of playing overindulgence. When a guy like Joe or Grant take chorus upon chorus during a blue note date, you know they really, really like what's going on. They're veterans enough to know that lengthy tunes are dangerous candidates for the cutting room floor.

sweet slumber...grant plays the head SO beautifully...So slow...and check out the horns backing him on the head. perfect.

in closing, i think i've finally fingured out why i like this session so much. there's no BLAH, Blah, blah factor anywhere on this fabulous blue note release. what i mean is...usually in jazz, after a few bars or at least by the end of the 3rd chorus, I find that many players sound like blah, blah, blah. there's no real meaning anymore. that's why i like "am I blue." i never find my mind drifting away during the solos. they're always engaging. no matter how "no frills" they are...a big reason i may like them.

anybody else have a secret treasure.....? :D

Edited by Soul Stream
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Great review, Soul Stream! Thanks!

I think for me, this album is a grower. I eagerly awaited the RVG (never heard it before) - and, I have to admit, I was a little bit disappointed after my first listen :( It seemed a little too laid back, too easy, not as lively and grooving as what I knew by Grant Green (and this was one of the last Blue Notes - I think Goin' West will complete my collection). Anyhow: this seems to be a quiet, slow burner, something on blue flame and all the more heat for it...

Every time I put it in my CD-player again, I like it better... and I sure have to listen to it again tonight or tomorrow after reading your comments! Thanks :)


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I'll nominate two, both coincidentally have just three songs each:

Red Garland Quintet, All Mornin' Long

I posted about this elsewhere today, but this is a favorite from way back. I'm a sucker for long, slow blues and the title track fits that bill perfectly. Then throw in two terrific standards, "They Can't Take That Away From Me" and "Our Delight" and you have one near-perfect way to spend 37 minutes. Definitely do not get the feeling these guys were "watching the clock" on this Prestige jam!

Dexter Gordon, One Flight Up

Its been a while but its quite possible that this CD made me a Kenny Drew fan. Actually, to be honest, that was almost certainly Blue Train, but I first heard this one very close to the time that I heard Blue Train and Bluesnik, and these three albums were surely instrumental in getting me to sit up and take notice of Mr. Drew.

But its much more than that. I never tire of the 18 minute long "Tanya" at the start of the record. I love the tension and release in the tune and the way the rhythm section works throughout. This tune has such a cool vibe to me, kind of makes me think Tanya was the kind of girl who kept you on your toes all the time but she made it worthwhile.

"Coppin The Haven" may be my favorite Kenny Drew composition, and even though its like I know every note in his solo, it kills me everytime.

And then we wrap it up with an absolutely classic example of Dex' balladry, 'Darn That Dream". Beautiful and heartbreaking.

"Kong Neptune", the CD bonus, is just icing on the cake!

Edited by Dan Gould
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Dexter Gordon, One Flight Up

Its been a while but its quite possible that this CD made me a Kenny Drew fan.  Actually, to be honest, that was almost certainly Blue Train, but I first heard this one very close to the time that I heard Blue Train and Bluesnik, and these three albums were surely instrumental in getting me to sit up and take notice of Mr. Drew.

kenny drew never did much for me until i got recently both tina brooks - the wait game and jackie mclean - jackie's bag. he has grow on me a lot with these two. think i go listen to the 3 you mention again to see if i like him any better now on these. though bluesnik is not one of my favourite mclean albums. one flight up is a fantastic CD. great tunes and gordan and byrd sound a perfect pair. did they record any more stuff together?

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In the Beginning by Hubert Laws

I never see anyone talk about this. Were it not for a CTI binge I was on last year, I might never have heard about this lovely album. This is one of those albums that fits every description of a jazz album while still defying category. The music on this album evokes memories of places that seem as distant and vague as those places I have yet to visit. And I guess that's the key here: it hits a nerve, a strong one, but one I cannot really describe.

There's the bluesy title track starting the album (one in which flautist Laws effortlessly moves between time shifts), and then the first highlight, the lovely waltz "Restoration." This song evokes a warm breezy autumn afternoon, the flute echoing the sound of falling leaves.

Laws' interpretation of Satie's "Gymnopedie #1" chokes me up every time I listen to it. It's as if the guitar and electric piano are played at just the right moments as to tug my heartstrings. Works every time. This is then followed by some soulful Laws double-tracking on the gospel-flavored "Come Ye Disconsolate."

A duet between Laws and drummer Steve Gadd (as in, "Gadd, this guy is a helluva drummer!") rips "Airegin" to lovely shreds. At times, it sounds like Gadd has a few extra pairs of arms laying around!

The full band, including Laws brother Ronnie on tenor sax, appears for Trane's "Moments Notice" and while Ronnie is no Trane (who is?), he acquits himself well on this.

"Reconciliation" is a lot like "Restoration" (besides similar titles) in that it also evokes an early autumn afternoon, but now the wind has picked up, blowing the leaves rather violently. But then the wind dies down, and it comes to a restful conclusion.

The album closes with the mammoth 15-minute "Mean Lene," which actually sounds like four or five different themes in one song. What's even more amazing is that this was completed in one take! But MY! how it swings!

Great playing all around, but extra kudos must be given to bassist Ron Carter, whose deft touch and fleet-fingers guide the listener through this garden of delights, while still being playful and evocative enough to be just as creative as the soloists.

Unfortunately, the preceding is just some dry commentary; how I wish I could describe the emotional tug this album gives me when I listen to it. Like I said before, it's indescribable: I can't tell if these places are ones I've been, or ones I hope to visit. Or maybe they're part of some deep-repressed happy memory swimming in a sea of bad memories. Or maybe I should just stop over-anal-yzing everything and just enjoy it!


Great topic, Soul Stream! I hope others join in on the fun. Gotta confess, your review of Am I Blue made me dig out my copy which doesn't have "For All We Know" on it (long story). I've been listening to it, and it was perfect driving-home music tonight, real relaxing; but on the whole, I guess the charm just eludes me. But I tell ya: you should be writing reviews for Blue Note! Maybe then, they wouldn't need to keep shoving Norah down our throats: in a perfect world, your reviews would have the same effect on everyone else as this one did on me!

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Re:" Am I Blue" by Grant Green

I, too, thought this disc was a bit of a let down when it was RVG'd last year. I still don't love it to death, but it had definately grown on me. I like it best when played over the in-store system at work. It's absolutely perfect in the background. Damning with faint praise, I know...

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Let me go out on a limb with:

The Mike Westbrook Orchestra: The Cortege

From the early 80s, originally 3 LPs, now 2 CDS. In my opinion the most successful large scale jazz piece I've heard.

Based on a range of poems from across Europe, sung in a variety of languages by Kate Westbrook and Phil Minton.

The range of the music is astonishing - short songs, long songs, brooding instrumentals, superb soloing. High points include Brian Godding's eerie electric guitar on 'Erme Estuary'; Malcolm Griffiths incredibly moving trombone solo on 'Lenador'; the tense, funereal 'Cordoba'; and the strange sense of release when the orchestra erupts into 'Jerusalem.'

Believe me, this is a recording that anyone with an ear for jazz beyond the US mainstream will return to again and again.

I saw it performed live and ordered an advanced copy at the gig (my name is on the sleeve as a 'patron' of the Westbrook band...sounds very posh!). I've lived with it for 20 years and still have heard nothing that can sustain the length of 'The Cortege' and continue to hold interest. Westbrook succeeds by the care of the composition, producing a vast but varied tapestry of music.

The success of 'The Cortege' can be partially measured by his follow up large piece, 'London Bridge is Broken Down', a piece that has its moments but somehow doesn't convince and suffers from longeurs.

'The Cortege' did it perfectly.

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I'm glad I got a few of ya'll to dig "Am I Blue" out and give it a spin. I may not have converted anybody, but it always feels nice to say good things about music you really, really love. ;)

I gave it a spin yesterday and I do like it a lot!

Then how about nominating another one of Green's Solid? I love that one since I first heard it!

The wonderful James Spaulding, Tyner, Green doing George Russell - exciting stuff!


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As posted earlier, I recently got the Grant Green box set, and last night I gave a good listen to quite a few tracks. Nothing from Am I Blue on there, but the one track from Solid (Minor League) was great. Another one that blew me away was "The Lamp is Low" from Z.T.'s BLues, a Stanley Turrentine date. Is the rest of that album just as good?? Damn!

I've listened to a lot of Green in the past, but I've been away from it for a while. Coming back to it now, I'm hearing it in a new way, it seems. His articulation was so smooth. Well, I don't want to go on repeating what SoulStream already so eloquently wrote about, so I'll just leave it by saying that Grant was one of the greats.

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My favorite Grant Green is "Street of Dreams." Beautiful stuff. I haven't listened to it lately so am unable to go into any detail here; but it is my personal choice as his greatest cd.

They do one of my favorite tunes on there, "Lazy Afternoon." It is one of those performances where the performers are absolutely unmistakable. You know it is Elvin back there, with his churning, quiet fire, Hutcherson saying all the right things, and Larry Young playing like no one else at the time. All this taken at what has to be the perfect tempo for the tune.

The only other version that comes close for me is the one on Pete LaRoca's Basra with Joe Henderson.

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I loved Am I Blue from the first time I got it. Can't contribute more than Soul Stream said. Another great GG album since we're on him is I Want to Hold Your Hand. Hank is Hank and Stella by Starlight is wonderfully done.

Speaking of Blue, how about Born to Be Blue. Haven't listened to it in a while but it deserves a mention here.

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