WUSF All Night Jazz Focus Artist of the Week: Grant Green

This week on All Night Jazz, we’ll focus on guitar great Grant Green. Born on June 6, 1935, in St. Louis, Missouri, Green’s first professional job as a musician was with a gospel band when he was only 13.

But as he stated to Dan Morgenstern in a Down Beat interview: “The first thing I learned to play was boogie-woogie. Then I had to do a lot of rock & roll. It’s all blues, anyhow.”

Early on he worked alongside drummer Elvin Jones and saxophonist Jimmy Forrest. Lou Donaldson saw him play in St. Louis and hired him for his touring group. It was Donaldson who recommended that Green try his luck in NYC and upon his arrival introduced him to Alfred Lion at Blue Note.

Lion liked what he heard and immediately signed him. During the ‘60s Green appeared as a leader and sideman on more Blue Note recordings than any other jazz artist.

Perhaps one of the reasons for his enduring popularity was because, though influenced by other guitar greats like Charlie Christian, he preferred to listen to horn players like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis.

Green had his ups and downs and struggled with drug addiction. Though he was both been lauded and disparaged by critics, he maintained a singular, recognizable sound throughout the years.

Green has been credited as the father of “acid jazz.”  After many comebacks and disappointments, an unhealthy Green hit the road against doctor’s orders in late 1978 and suffered a fatal heart attack on January 31, 1979, at the age of 43.

 

We’ll hear distinctive guitar sound of Grant Green all week long on All Night Jazz.