Grant Green-Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970.

Label: Resonance Records.

In 1967, thirty-five year old guitarist Grant Green was in the throes of heroin addiction, and it looked as if he was fighting a battle he had no chance of winning. Grant Green was a shadow of the man who had arrived in New York in 1960, to meet Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records.

By then, Grant Green who was born on the ‘6th’ of July 1931, was twenty-nine, had been a professional musician since he was a teenager and for the early part of his career had played in his home town of St Louis and around East St Louis. Initially, he had no inclination to move to New York until Lionel Hampton persuaded him to make the move in 1959.

A year later, in 1960, Grant Green was introduced to Alfred Lion the cofounder of Blue Note Records, who signed the twenty-nine tear old guitarist to one of jazz’s premier labels. 

Between 1960 and 1965, Grant Green recorded a total of twenty-two albums for Blue Note Records as bandleader leading trios, quartets, quintets and sextets. Fourteen of these albums were released between 1960 and 1965, with the remainder released by Blue Note Records during the seventies and eighties. However, by 1965 Grant Green was already one of jazz music’s rising stars and had come a long way in five years.

Although Grant Green was a prolific recording artist between 1960 and 1965, he also found time to work with many of the other artists signed to Blue Note Records. This was akin to the great and good of jazz, and before long, Grant Green was the go-to-guitarist for many artists signed to Blue Note Records. However, within the space of two years Grant Green’s life had been transformed.

As 1967 dawned, Grant Green was in throes of heroin addiction which was threatening to derail his burgeoning career. Just like so many jazz musicians before him, Grant Green had succumbed to heroin, not knowing how addictive the drug was. By 1967, heroin had sunk its claws into Grant Green who was desperate to free himself from its grasp. That was why in 1967, Grant Green made the decision to move to Detroit where he would turn his back on  the local music scene while he tackled his heroin addiction.

Grant Green moved his family to Detroit which became his home for the next two years as he set about beating his addiction to heroin. During 1967 and 1968, Grant Green deliberately avoided the local music scene, where he knew drugs would be freely available. He wasn’t willing to put temptation in his way having come so far, and beaten his addiction to heroin. By 1969, he was ready to return to the Big Apple, and rebuild his career.

After two years away, Alfred Lion resigned a newly reinvigorated Grant Green to Blue Note Records in 1969. By then, Grant Green was a changed man, and although he looked older, and his hair was starting to thin, he looked much healthier than he had two years previously.

Grant Green had also put together a new band and was moving in a new direction musically. Rather than jazz, Grant Green’s new band were playing a much funkier type of music. This new music would be showcased by Grant Green and his band over the new year or so, and features on Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970 which was recently released as a two-CD set by Resonance Records.

Having resigned to Blue Note Records, Grant Green joined Larry Ridley and Don Lamond on a European tour, where each of the three guitarists took to the stage with the band that travelled with them, and played a short set. After the three sets, the three guitarists joined forces, and played together showcasing their considerable skills. Grant Green enjoyed the tour and when he left Europe, had no idea that he would return to France in October 1969. However, before that, Grant Green had his comeback album to record.

On the ‘3rd’ of October 1969, Grant Green and his band headed to Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, to record his comeback album Carryin’ On. It found Grant Green leading a sextet on an album which marked a stylistic change for the thirty-eight year old guitarist. Carryin’ On was the first album of jazz-funk that Grant Green recorded, and this was the sound he embraced for the remainder of his career.

Having recorded Carryin’ On, which was released in the spring of 1970, Grant Green started preparing to return to Paris, France, later that month. This latest journey came as something of a surprise for Grant Green.

In the October 1969 edition of Jazz Magazine, an announcement that ORTF’s Guitar Night was due to take place at the headquarters of French National Radio with a ‘dream lineup’ of Barney Kessel, Kenny Burrell and Tal Farlow all featuring on the ‘26th’ of October. As soon as the event was announced, French jazz fans were looking forward to three of their favourite guitarists. That was until one was forced to withdraw from the event.

This was Tal Farlow, who had been suffering from asthma attacks and was unable to make the journey to France. For the organisers this was a disaster, but by the time next edition of Jazz Magazine was published, a replacement had been found…Grant Green.

While Grant Green was one of the biggest names in American jazz, French jazz fans didn’t appreciate the talented St Louis born guitarist. When Jazz Hot ran its reader’s poll, Grant Green ended up in eighth place in the list of guitarists. As a result, the announcement of Grant Green as Tal Farlow’s replacement was greeted with a lack of enthusiasm. It was going to take a lot for Grant Green to win over the French jazz fans.

When Grant Green arrived in Paris to play at the ORTF’s Guitar Night on the ‘26th’ of October 1969, he was joined by a slightly different, and slimmed down lineup of his band. Grant Green was about to lead a trio, which didn’t feature his usual drummer Idris Muhammad, who was unable to make the trip. Instead, drummer Don Lanond, bassist Larry Ridley and Grant Green would take to the stage at Studio 104, La Maison De Le Radio.

Disc One-Live At La Maison De Le Radio.

Only 852 patrons could be seated in Studio 104, La Maison De Le Radio, which was situated on the banks of the Seine. On the night of the ‘26th’ October 1969, it was decided that Grant Green who was perceived as the least popular of the three guitarists by the French promoters should take to the stage first. Grant Green was relegated to the warmup act, but was determined to win over the audience.

Thirty-eight year old Grant Green opened his set with a cover of James Brown’s I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I’ll Get It Myself), which he had recorded for his new album Carryin’ On. Straight away, the emphasis is on funk as the rhythm section lock into a groove, before Grant Green showcases his majestic rhythmic skills, before covering Oleo which was written by Sonny Rollins. He was one of Grant Green’s favourite composers, and Oleo allowed the guitarist to experiment and improvise, unleashing his trademark spitfire single sound during this journey into jazz funk. 

Very different is Antonio Carlos Jobim’s How Insensitive (Insensatez), which seems an unlikely track for Grant Green to cover. Unlike many other jazz guitarists, Grant Green hadn’t embraced samba, but with the help of his band delivers a sympathetic cover of a familiar track which allows the guitarist and bandleader to showcase his talent and versatility.

Grant Green is back on familiar territory on the improvised Untitled Blues, before covering another Sonny Rollins’ composition Sonnymoon For Two. It’s reinvented with the help of the rhythm section, who showcase their skills during the solos and when they join forces with Grant Green, help him reach new heights. After that, Grant closes the set with the oft-covered I Wish You Love, where guitarist Barney Kessel joins the trio. This sparking cover was the perfect way for Grant Green to close his set and by the time he left the stage, he had won over the audience.

This was ironic, because the Paris audience weren’t exactly enthusiastic when they heard that Grant Green was Tal Farlow’s replacement. However, what the audience didn’t realise was that Grant Green’s music was changing, and he had embraced funk and jazz-funk, which would become his new trademark sound. The audience in Studio 104, La Maison De Le Radio, were privileged to hear Grant Green’s new sound, albeit he was accompanied by what slimmed down lineup of his band. However, this was enough to give French jazz fan’s a tantalising taste of Grant Green’s new sound. 

Buoyed by the reception at Studio 104, La Maison De Le Radio, on the ‘26th’ October 1969, Grant Green headed home, and this new chapter in his career continued apace. This included recording a new album. 

Green Is Beautiful was recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on January the ’30th’ 1970, and featured a very different lineup of Grant Green’s band. This time around, Grant Green led an octet that featured drummer Idris Muhammad, bassist Jimmy Lewis and conga player Cándido. The expanded lineup of Grant Green’s band worked their way five cover versions as the bandleader continued his journey into jazz-funk.

In the spring of 1970, Carryin’ On was released and showcased Grant Green’s new jazz-funk sound. Carryin’ On was well received, although some of Grant Green’s older fans weren’t won over by the album. They preferred his earlier albums, although a new audience embraced Grant Green’s newly updated sound. Later, Carryin’ On proved popular amongst collectors of acid jazz and rare groove.

By July 1970, Green Is Beautiful was released and found Grant Green growing into his new sound on an album that featured a tougher, funkier, brand of R&B. This new sound Grant Green was about to showcase at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, in 1970.

Disc Two-Haute Funk.

Grant Green had been invited to the prestigious Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, which took place between the ‘18th’ and ‘20th’ of July 1970. By then, Grant Green had fully embraced jazz-funk which was growing in popularity. However, he hadn’t turned his back on his jazz roots as the four lengthy workouts on Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970 show.

When Grant Green arrived at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, the bandleader and guitarist was forty, and was due to appear on the ‘18th’ and ‘20th’ of July 1970. Joining him was a band that featured drummer Billy Wilson, organist Clarence Palmer and tenor saxophonist Claude Bartee. They joined musical chameleon, bandleader and guitarist Grant Green who by July 1970 was at the peak of his powers.

Grant Green’s performances of at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes on the ‘18th’ and ‘20th’ July 1970 opened with sizzling versions of one of his own compositions Upshot. The first version closes disc one and lasts eighteen majestic minutes, while the second version that features on disc two is extended to nearly twenty minutes. Just like the first version, Grant Green and his band ensure that Upshot sizzles and swings during this latest journey into jazz-funk. Hurt So Bad which had given Little Anthony and The Imperials a hit in 1965 was a favourite of Grant Green’s and was often included in his live sets. He stays true to the original, and unleashes a breathtaking solo during this melodic cover of a familiar song. Closing disc two is a twenty-seven minute epic version of Hi-Heel Sneakers, that veers between joyous, uplifting  and celebratory to explosive when Grant Green unleashes his solo during a track that fuses elements of funk, gospel, jazz and jazz funk. In doing so, Grant Green and his band reinvent a familiar and oft-covered track.

For fans of Grant Green, Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970 which was originally released by Resonance Records as a three LP set for Record Store Day 2018 and recently released as a two CD set is a welcome reminder of one of the great jazz guitarists of his generation. By July 1970, when four of the tracks on Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970 were recorded, Grant Green was enjoying a new chapter in his career after reinventing himself as a jazz-funk guitarist in 1969. This became his trademark sound for the rest of his career.

Sadly, following Grant Green’s performance at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes he only recorded another eight albums between August 1971 and April 1978. After that, his health deteriorated in 1978, and Grant Green was forced to spend much of that year in hospital. During this period, Grant Green wasn’t earning money, and before long the guitarist’s finances were in a perilous state.

Against doctor’s advice, Grant Green headed back out on the road to try to make some much-needed money. His final gig was at his fiend George Benson’s Breezin’ Lounge in New York, but sadly, Grant Green collapsed in his car of a heart attack and died on January the ’31st’ 1979 aged just forty-three. That day, jazz music lost one of its great guitarists.

His recording career belatedly began in 1960 when twenty-nine year old Grant Green signed to Blue Note Records for the first time. This was the label that Grant Green called home for the majority of his career, and where he recorded the best music of his career. Grant Green was signed to Blue Note Records when he recorded the music on Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970, which is a reminder of the early part of his jazz-funk years, which was a new chapter in the career of this talented and versatile guitarist, bandleader and composer. 

Grant Green-Funk In France From Paris To Antibes 1969-1970.


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