Grant Green ‘Slick! – Live at Oil Can Harry’s’ 2LP (Resonance) 4/5

By the mid-1970’s. guitarist Grant Green had moved on slightly from his earlier Blue Note recordings and was firmly focused on covering current soul and funk songs of the day. His group was now made up of Emmanuel Riggins (electric piano), Ronnie Ware (bass), Greg ‘Vibration’ Williams, and on percussion, Gerald Izzard. Lengthier numbers were the order of the day for his live performances and this one from 1975 is probably the last of its kind we have of Green. Of interest are the medleys that make up the second vinyl disc and Green’s open-minded approach is illustrated by his expertly weaving in, ‘Boogie On Reggae Woman’ by Stevie Wonder into ‘For The Love Of Money’ by The O’Jays. That said, an old evergreen favourite remains in his repertoire and that is Jobim’s ‘How Insensitive’, all twenty-six minutes here of a truly epic rendition, and one which reveals that the melodic side of Grant Green’s craft had remained undiminished, while the abiding influence of saxophonists on his work and that of Charlie Parker more especially is paid homage to on Bird’s composition, ‘Now Is The Time’. It should be remembered that by 1975 jazz was in a state of flux, with commercial venues in decline. traditional styles of the genre now seemingly under attack from jazz-fusion and jazz-funk sub-genres, but this was more reflective of a younger generation of musicians simply moving with the times, and in this respect, Green was ahead of his contemporaries.

The music is placed in context by the excellent black and white photos of the original band performing at the venue and by the national (including Downbeat) and local press reviews that are presented to us in their original typed journalistic format on the back cover of the inner sleeve booklet, and in a more reader friendly larger print over a couple of pages. These most definitely help to situate the reader in the moment and discover that Grant Green still had a grass-roots constituent audience that had listened to the Blue Note era material and stayed loyal to him. Another outstanding inner sleeve booklet contains a two-way conversation between guitarist and educator, Jacques Lesure and fellow guitarist and aficionado, Perry Hughes. Between them, they dissect the career of Green, and explain how influential his style became for other guitarists, making parallels between live recordings from the beginning of the 1960’s and another a decade later.

Tim Stenhouse