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volume 8
february 2006

From Grant Green to B.B. King to T-Bone Walker


  Consistent approaches to the blues
by Andrew Scott
  Despite his fame as Blue Note Records' "house guitarist," Grant Green (1931-1979) has not been awarded his rightful place as one of the outstanding jazz musicians of the twentieth century. This may be attributed to the commercial sidesteps Green made in his later career. However, as Andrew Scott shows in a musicological analysis of three Green improvisations, Green's marginalized "commercial" has much in common with his earlier more celebrated performances. The dismissal of Green's late era career by jazz historians seems not to be an issue of music, but of artifice.
1 Looking at three solo's of Grant Green. No doubt, 1961 was a year of intense activity for St. Louis born guitarist Grant Green. Having come to New York City one year earlier as a member of saxophonist Lou Donaldson's group, Green was now employed as Blue Note Records' "house guitarist." At Blue Note, Green was a favourite musician of producer Alfred Lion. [1] Between 1961-1965, Green appeared on more Blue Note releases than any other artist, often on sessions led by Hank Mobley, Ike Quebec, Stanley Turrentine, Harold Vick and Larry Young, to name but a few. [2]
Admired for his "clean tone and driving phraseology," Green's improvisatory approach was rooted in the blues, as he told Downbeat magazine in 1965. [3] Green recorded a variety of musical styles during his career, including jazz, blues, funk, and rock 'n' roll. Approximately half of Green's output consists of commercial "funk" or "R&B" recordings. These recordings represent Green's deliberate [4] and largely unsuccessful attempt to produce a "hit" record; an attempt for which his career has historically been unfairly marginalized.
Analysis of three solos — performed by Green in 1961, 1963 and 1967 — yields clear examples that support Green's assessment of his musical approach: "It's all the blues, anyhow." [5] The 1961 solo, from a Blue Note jazz recording, shares much with the later more commercial outings, including extensive use of the blues scale (1,b3, 4, #4,5,b7), specific targeting of the so-called "blue" third and fifth, an abundance of vibrato and glissandi and a proliferation of "riff" based thematic and rhythmic material. Further, Green's "time-feel" on all three improvisations is similarly relaxed; a phraseological approach often categorized as playing "behind-the-beat."
My intentions in this article are twofold. First, I provide a musical and style analysis that aids understanding of Green's improvisations. Second, I use my analysis of the three solos to counter writers Michel Cuscuna and Ben Sidran who assert that Green's "commercial" output was inferior to his jazz recordings. [6] My transcription and analysis dispute these aforementioned critics, demonstrating that Green's improvisatory style remained consistent throughout his career. Lastly, I suggest that rather than his playing, it was Green's changing aggregations and repertoire that critics found problematic.
2 Gooden's Corner. "Gooden's Corner" is a Green composition using a 12-bar blues harmonic progression in the key of Bb Major. Sonny Clark (piano), Sam Jones (bass) and Louis Hayes (drums) accompany Green. The composition was recorded on December 23, 1961. This song, along with the other compositions recorded for this album, fit neatly into both jazz and American song history, enabling jazz historians to find clear canonic precedents in the annals of jazz for Green's repertoire choices. Performed as a quartet, this composition evidences all the characteristics of a classic jazz guitar performance. Green's warm guitar sound is amplified — to the extent that it can be heard above the group — but is devoid of any sound processing. As David Ake points out, "Until quite recently, jazz guitarists relied solely on a warm, distortion-free timbre. Influential mainstream practioners including Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian, and Joe Pass used the amplifier in its most literal way, that is, to increase the loudness of a hollow-bodied instrument." [7] Absent is any distortion or chorus, resulting in as acoustically "pure" a sound as is perhaps possible by an electric instrument.
  Example 1:
  Grant Green's solo on "Gooden's Corner" (transcription: Andrew Scott)
  Click here for a larger version in PDF-format
Green's improvisation on "Gooden's Corner" is sparse. He utilizes one hundred and forty-four notes during three choruses, including a pickup into the first chorus. Accordingly, Green leaves considerable space in his solos, including one whole bar rest, eight half bar rests, two whole notes and five half notes. One interpretation is to view Green's use of space as encouraging antiphony between himself and his group. The space following Green's phrases is to be filled by one of the band members whose response acts as the symbolic "punctuation" of Green's musical statement. "Call and response" of this sort, argues Jerry Richardson, is a "main style characteristic" of the blues, citing clear precedents in the music of Louis Armstrong, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King. [8] Arguably, Green's use of space and tacit encouragement of group musical "response" demonstrates similarities to the aforementioned artists, and situates him within the blues tradition.
  Example 1 (continued):
  Grant Green's solo on "Gooden's Corner" (transcription: Andrew Scott)
3 Blues for Lou. On the 1963 composition "Blues for Lou," Big John Patton (organ) and Ben Dixon (drums) accompany Green. Similar to "Gooden's Corner," "Blues for Lou" employs the 12-bar harmonic structure of the blues, but in the key of G Major. "Blues for Lou," released on the album of the same name, is representative of Green's commercial output. Both Patton and Dixon are perhaps known best for their "rhythm and blues" recordings with singer Lloyd Price and singer/pianist Ray Charles. Further, the repertoire on this album: two Price compositions and one by Charles has fewer easily indexed precedents in the jazz canon, suggesting perhaps that Green was attempting to attract "cross-over" attention. Further, the presence of the Hammond B-3 organ, largely a marginal jazz instrument in the early 1960s, further distances this performance from the ever-important canon of acoustic jazz aggregations. As Bob Porter argues, "After his death, I thought many times of how his career would be judged by historians, since so much of his later recordings were in a commercial vein." [9]
  Example 2:
  Grant Green's solo on "Blues for Lou" (transcription: Andrew Scott)
  Click here for a larger version in PDF-format
  Green's improvisatory approach on "Blues for Lou" is more rhythmically active than on "Gooden's Corner." Green uses two hundred and sixty notes over three choruses (and a pick up) of the improvisation. The predominant rhythmic unit here is the triplet, giving the composition an underlying pulse of a triple meter "R&B" shuffle" (6/8). Green employs triplets thirty-two times, often on repeating melodic motifs. Moreover, Green's grouping of six sixteenth notes in the time of one beat — bar four of the third chorus — could be interpreted as an extension or doubling of the triplet motif. Perhaps Green's rhythmically active approach combined with the lack of "call and response," can be explained as a juxtaposition of the composition's "call and response" rhythmically static melody.
  Example 2 (continued):
  Grant Green's solo on "Blues for Lou" cont. (transcription: Andrew Scott)
4 High Heeled Sneakers. Green's 1967 improvisation on the pop composition "High Heeled Sneakers" offers yet another example of his consistent approach to the blues. Again recorded in the familiar surroundings of his former Lou Donaldson band mates (Patton and Dixon), the album on which this improvisation is contained (Iron City) is precisely the sort of mid to late career work of Green's that critics love to decry. Similar to Armstrong's Hot Five and Seven sides and Charlie Parker's recordings for the Dial label, Green's pre-1966 work on the Blue Note label is widely considered to be his best. Although Green would return to Blue Note as a leader in 1969 (Carryin' On), 1970 (Green is Beautiful and Alive!), 1971 (Visions, Shades of Green and The Final Comedown) and 1972 (Live at the Lighthouse) — most of these albums are "pop" jazz efforts and signalled the end of the critics love affair with the guitarist. Green's gilded touch at making sacrosanct jazz albums for the New Jersey based label was over.
  Example 3:
  Grant Green's solo on "High Heeled Sneakers" (transcription: Andrew Scott)
  Click here for a larger version in PDF-format
  Considering how active Green had been in the recording studio as both a leader and a side person since 1959, the years 1967-1968 represented an anomaly in Green's discography. Iron City, recorded in 1967 for Cobblestone Records would be his only commercial date during that two year period and would not be released until 1972 on Cobblestone and re-issued in 1978 on Muse.
  Example 3 (continued):
  Grant Green's solo on "High Heeled Sneakers" cont. (transcription: Andrew Scott)
  Green begins his improvisation on "High Heeled Sneakers" with a blues motif or riff. Like his first guitar hero Charlie Christian, Green was infinitely creative with riffs — using short repeated phrases as a springboard to longer passages, a way to command listener attention and as a method for repeating and revising upon a central tropology of African-American music making practices. In addition to the riff that begins the improvisation — the pickup to bar one — riffs can be heard in bar two — Green's "responsorial" riff answered from a minor third below — and in bars 38 and 39. Here, Green is employing the E minor blues scale over a G7 sound. The relationship is one of relative minor/relative major as E minor is tonally related to G Major. While by no means sui generis to Green, constructing phrases off the related minor sound in this manner is an identifiable style marker of Green's and provides further evidence that his improvisatory style — celebrated in his early career and marginalized in his later career — remained reasonably consistent.
  Example 3 (continued):
  Grant Green's solo on "High Heeled Sneakers" cont. (transcription: Andrew Scott)
  Further, the similarity of melodic material in Green's improvisations on "Gooden's Corner," "Blues for Lou" and "High Heeled Sneakers" suggests a unified approach to the blues. On all three compositions Green is predominantly a "blues" scale improviser (pitches 1, b3, 4, #4, 5, b7). On "Blues for Lou," for example, Green articulates only fifty-four pitches — out of a total of two hundred and sixty — that are not contained within the blues scale. In other words, on this composition Green utilizes the "blues" scale for his choice of melodic material 80.3% of the time. Likewise on "Gooden's Corner" Green uses forty-six pitches found outside of the Bb blues scale, including some chromaticism not found in the later solo. The "blues" scale comprises 68% of the melodic material in this example. On "High Heeled Sneakers," Green makes extensive use of the "blue third," almost never cleanly articulating the major third of the key during the first chorus of his improvisation. When he does strike a B natural — twice in bar 20 and once in bar 24 — the note is disguised by glissandi into the pitch from its chromatic neighbour. The guitarist employs the B natural more frequently during his second chorus (bars 29, 37 and 42); however minor or "blue" thirds continue to dominate his improvisatory lexicon in this improvisation.
5 Adherence to the blues scale. The predominant melodic motion in all three solos is ascending and descending "blues" scale segments. On "Blues for Lou" Green frequently (five times) uses the identical melodic motif of scale notes 4, #4, 4, b3 (bars 2, 5, 6, 26, and 30). One possible extramusical explanation for the frequent appearance of this motif is that the fingering of the phrase lies comfortably and easily on the guitar, and is arguably built into the "blues" scale position on instrument. Moreover, Green executes the same fingering and melodic phrase — transposed in descending fourths — three times during his improvisation (bars 6, 26, 30). The fact that the fingering for this blues motif is identical on each successive string and that the guitar is tuned largely in fourths (E, A, D, G, B, E) adds currency to my argument that this melodic phrase is built symmetrically on successive strings into the "blues scale" position on the instrument. I suggest then that one facet of Green's musical approach to the blues is his knowledge of "stock" blues scale positions on the guitar. Further, the frequency with which these phrases appear in Green's performance can be explained as Green moving the identical fingering shape (or position) down successive guitar strings. Accordingly, Green's choice of melodic material was a combination of note choice and guitaristic "position" playing. Green's adherence and reliance on the guitar's "blues" scale positions for melodic material further associates him with the blues tradition, when one looks at Richardson's argument that "hand-position shifts" are a salient stylistic and idiomatic device of the blues guitar performer. [10]
Adherence to the blues scale is again evidenced in Green's solo on "Gooden's Corner." Green's introductory phrase leading into the composition's first chorus is comprised of the ordered first three notes of the Bb blues scale. His choice of Db (#9 or b3) on a medium-strong beat — the third beat of the bar — is questionable if one adheres to a chord-scale method for improvisation analysis. [11] The chord-scale method dictates the use of the Mixolydian scale (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7) or the so-called "bebop scale" (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, b7, 7) over Dominant 7th chords. [12] The pitch D natural, and not Db, is contained within both scales as both are related to the chord of which D natural is the third chord-tone. Although the Db challenges the tonality of the Bb7 chord by combining both major and minor thirds, this note fits nicely into the blues tropology of such players as B.B. King, Charlie Christian, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker, to name but a few. The Db is easily heard here as a "blue" third and can again be explained as Green's affinity for the blues scale. In fact, Green articulates this so-called "blue third" fifteen times during his solo on "Gooden's Corner." [13] Often, such as in the solo's pickup phrase and bars 7, 14, and 16, the "blue third" is placed on a strong beat and is sustained. The overall effect, while dissonant against the underlying harmonic progression, is a central feature of both the blues and of Green's career long approach to improvisation. For example, on "High Heeled Sneakers" Green's turnaround into the top of the second chorus is a variation of a Charlie Christian blues phrase — Christian opens his solo on "Grand Slam" with a rhythmically displaced variation of this motif in the key of F. The phrase as played by either Christian or Green can be directly situated as part of blues guitar vocabulary.
Audio fragment of Charlie Christian's introductory solo on "Grand Slam" (31 sec.; 1939 © Columbia)
  Green frequently super-imposes different "blues" scales on the harmony of "Blues for Lou," "Gooden's Corner" and "High Heeled Sneakers." During these solos, Green uses the diatonic substitution of a "blues" scale built from the vi minor chord in place of a tonic I dominant 7th chord 38% of the time on "Gooden's Corner" and 41% of the time on "Blues for Lou." We can see an example of this diatonic substitution in the introductory phrase and bar I of "Blues for Lou." Green uses only the notes E, G, A, G and Bb to improvise over a G Dominant 7th tonality. The resulting harmony is G Major 9, #9, 13. Further, all are pitches contained within the E blues scale, which when played over a G Dominant 7th harmony again yields the idiomatic blue third (Bb). Bars two and three of the third chorus of Green's solo on "Gooden's Corner" provide another example of Green's superimposition of the vi minor chord "blues" scale for a I Dominant seventh tonality. In this example, Green improvises using only the notes contained within the G Blues scale. Moreover, we see Green making frequent use of the chromaticism found within the blues scale, pitches D, Db, C from the G Blues scale on "Gooden's Corner."
Green's articulation of "blue" notes (b3, b5 and b7) is occasionally obscured by "bending" the string, using vibrato or glissando. The result is that the pitch rests microtonally between the two distinct surrounding pitches — see for example bar two of the third chorus of "Gooden's Corner" or bar 27 of "High Heeled Sneakers." Bradford Robinson describes this technique as a "microtonal lowering of the 3rd, 7th and — to a lesser extent — 5th scale degrees," suggesting it to be a common idiomatic device in both blues and jazz. [14] Robinson uses the overarching term "Blue note" to describe this practice. [15]
6 Shaping melodic lines. Green's approach to all three "blues" solos is again similar if we look at his method of phrasing or shaping of the melodic line. In all solo examples, Green's improvisatory ideas are rarely tied to the meter, downbeat or harmonic progression of the composition. Bars 2-7 of Green's solo on "Gooden's Corner" for example, illustrates Green playing a single-coherent idea that is phrased over bar lines (3, 4, 5 and 6) and over the underlying harmonic chord change to the IV dominant seventh in bar four. By ascending and descending the neck of the guitar using predominantly two blues scales (tonic and vi minor) Green draws his melodic vocabulary more from the "blues" sound of the aforementioned two scales — and from their respective hand positions on the guitar — than from individual chord changes. Both scales share a relationship to the overarching harmonic structure of the tonic chords (Bb or G). Green focuses on the "blue" pitches from the two scales (pitches b3, b5 and b7) — as exemplified by bar two of Green's second chorus of "Blues for Lou" — as his points of melodic arrival and departure. This technique of utilizing one or two scales to improvise over multiple chords outlines the overarching tonality of both pieces (Bb and G) rather than the individual chords of the progression, and has clear precedents in both jazz (Lester Young) and blues (B.B. King). [16]
  Bars 31-32 of "High Heeled Sneakers" offers an excellent example of Green's use and repetition of a single idea for dramatic effect. Sliding between the interval of a perfect fourth, Green's slurs, slides, microtonal bends and behind the beat phraseology is consistent with his own earlier playing and reminiscent of the horn players with whom he worked at Blue Note (Hank Mobley, Lou Donaldson and Stanley Turrentine) and of the blues shouters (Big Joe Williams and Jimmy Rushing) whom Green would have heard as a youth. Another example of Green's use of repetition to create musical drama can be heard in bars 4-11 of his solo on "High Heeled Sneakers." Here, Green uses only four notes (G, Bb, C and D) to improvise over a changing harmonic background — the quartal move G7 to C7. The note choice is ambiguous enough to work as the Bb functions twofold as the "blue third" of G7 and the flat seven of C. Like most great improvisers however, it is not so much the notes Green uses as what he does with them that makes this passage so effective. Using repetition, syncopation, rhythmic displacement, over the bar — and over the chord change — phrasing, a brief pause and then a continuation of the same idea before dovetailing into a stock blues phrase that leads the listener back to the tonic chord, Green demonstrates his mastery of rhythmic invention.
  Phrasing over the bar line can again be seen in Green's use of "riffs" — short repeated melodic phrases Green uses to build and develop his solo. Bars 5, 6, 9 and 10 offer examples of where Green uses a "riff" to phrase over the bar line in "Blues for Lou." During these bars, Green uses short repeating motifs that rely extensively on "blue note" pitches (Db and Bb: b5 and b3 accordingly). Further, the motif in both instances is extended over multiple bars and is neither shaped nor tied to meter, downbeat or harmonic change. Short repeating blues motifs — or "riffs" — give Green's solos — particularly on "Blues for Lou" — a sense of forward motion and perhaps a degree of "listener friendly" accessibility.
Green's use of ornamentation, embellishment, glissando and vibrato on "Blues for Lou," identifies him further with "blues" guitarists. In the history of jazz guitar, perhaps best identified with Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, equally articulated eighth notes are the main rhythmic unit of improvisation. [17] Further, these eighth notes are frequently devoid of ornamentation. [18] One possible explanation for the absence of vibrato and ornamentation in much jazz guitar improvisation is that guitarists — similar to many in the jazz community — looked to Charlie Parker as the harbinger of improvisation. Parker's saxophone timbre was absent of the type of vibrato and saxophone articulation identified with such earlier musicians as Johnny Hodges, Coleman Hawkins or Ben Webster. Even when Parker was improvising over the harmonic framework of a blues, he employs less vibrato and embellishment than those aforementioned saxophonists. Guitarists, perhaps attempting to emulate Parker's sound, so too rid their playing of vibrato. In the blues guitar tradition, however, the use of vibrato is a widely admired idiomatic device, often becoming paramount to the signature sounds of such blues artists as Bukka White or B.B. King. [19] Green's slow vibrato — as exemplified by beat one (pitch G) of "Blues for Lou" — and his use of glissando — a downward slide from Bb (the blue third) in bar three of the same composition — further associates Green with such "blues" guitarists as B.B. King, and underscores his point that the blues are central to his improvisatory approach.
7 Outside of the bebop aesthetic. Green's later work is largely dismissed in jazz historiography. As this later work shares much with his earlier performances, the reasons must me sought outside the music itself. In this respect two parameters may prove to be important: (1) Green's choice of repertoire; and (2) the changing instrumentation of his late career aggregations. If so, the conclusion is inevitable, that Green's outsider status in current jazz historiography results largely from his positioning outside of the bebop-based aesthetic frequently privileged by jazz historians. I make a distinction here between position and positioning. Green, who did spend the better part of his later career attempting to commercially "cross over" in order to be better received by commercial music audiences has been positioned here. That is to say he has had the "sell out" classification placed upon him, either historiographically by jazz writers or as a marketing device by record executives attempting to capitalize on the commercial success of Green's contemporary Wes Montgomery and his protégée George Benson. To be fair, such cross-over signifiers as repertoire taken from outside of the jazz canon and eclectic instrumentation do constitute one part of Green's overall sound and approach. However, a typical Green performance might feature various chestnuts from the American songbook, an original blues shuffle, a Henri Mancini pop-lite affair, a Commodores ballad, a Coltrane inspired modal romp or a Sonny Rollins rhythm change. Clearly, the compositions Green choose to perform span idioms, decades and styles that for many are perhaps seen as antithetical.
Green's diverse approach to repertoire as such may have contributed to his problematic reception in jazz historiography. As Scott DeVeaux has rightly argued, jazz historiography constructs a compartmentalized narrative of jazz history; an evolutionist trope in which a new musical style displaces an earlier one. [20] The standard lineage in jazz history follows: swing trumps Dixieland, bebop trumps swing, modal trumps bop and finally free jazz or the avant-garde movement trumps all earlier styles, calling into question the need for such established jazz signifiers as swing rhythm, standard song forms, blues, and, in many cases, tonality. By performing compositions from different eras and cultural backgrounds, Green is arguably engaging in a dialogic of traditions. However, there is more to this. According to David Ake, a more broadly conceived notion of jazz history circulates among performers and fans. [21] It is a notion, in which the history of jazz has been "traditioned" on a foundation that was grounded by bebop. I suggest that this musical "traditioning" is problematic for journalists and other jazz gatekeepers, who are arguably looking for a more circumscribed repertoire and even career in order to situate their subjects historically and stylistically. [22] Green's repertoire choices arguably challenge listeners and critics to reconsider their understanding of the jazz canon.
I am not alone in arguing that bebop enjoys a hegemonic position in jazz historiography. [23] Although it is perhaps beyond the scope of this article to offer an in-depth examination of the reasons for this historical bias, some background is in order. The Bebop Era is situated historically between 1940 and 1945, and geographically in Harlem, New York City. Interchangeable with the moniker modern jazz, the historiography of bebop stresses this music's purpose. Bebop was, it is argued, as much statement as sound. No longer content to provide music for dancers at the Savoy or Roseland Ballroom, such early bebop players as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach and Kenny Clarke created a new and "improved" music that "rebelled against the populist trappings of swing music." [24] The twin themes of rebellion and revolution colour much of the discourse surrounding bebop. [25] The seismic shifts in the musical landscape that occurred around this time manifested themselves not only musically — with extended harmonies, ornate chromaticism and ever-increasing tempi — but also socio-politically — bebop was, it is argued, a music produced by an "underclass within an underclass." [26] As Gioia points out, bebop's early proponents were not established jazz stars, but their sidemen. "Not by Benny Goodman, but by his guitarist Charlie Christian. Not by Duke Ellington, but by his bassist Jimmy Blanton. Not by Earl Hines, but by his saxophonist Charlie Parker. Not by Cab Calloway, but by his trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. Not by Coleman Hawkins, but by his pianist Thelonious Monk. Not by Louis Armstrong, but by his saxophonist Dexter Gordon." [27]
My purpose here is not to re-evaluate or re-situate bebop in jazz history. Rather, I am highlighting DeVeaux's point that by portraying bebop as an art form, devoid of commercial pressures or considerations, all earlier and later jazz styles are viewed through a lens coloured by bebop-based aesthetics. Simply put, if bebop represents jazz music's move away from entertainment and towards the paradigm of art music, "the whole narrative of jazz history must be adjusted" because the value of earlier and later jazz styles are now measured in relation to bebop. [28] Accordingly, the value of such post-bop styles as West Coast Jazz, Hard Bop, Third Stream, Free Jazz or Fusion hinges upon how well these genres underscore, reify or make more meaningful the evidenced evolutionary tendencies lionized in bebop historiography. Clearly, the commercial leanings of Green's later work do not neatly fit into this historical model. Another reason to account for Green's marginalization, my second parameter, may be the instrumentation of his late career aggregations.
On the covers of many of Green's later recordings, there are no pictures of the instruments featured in the aggregation. Glancing at the cover of Carryin' On, Live at the Lighthouse or Alive!, for example, the potential customer would have no way of identifying Green as a guitarist. [29] There are, of course, countless reasons to account for this absence, however I suggest one other. It is possible that Green's late-career aggregations, which often featured electric bass, electric piano or Hammond organ and conga drums, transmitted a mixed message when one considers that so-called acoustic instruments (saxophone, trumpet, piano, acoustic bass) perhaps best signify a connection with the all-important jazz tradition. Even the guitar is not laden with jazz signifiers. In fact, quite the opposite. The electric guitar was largely a novelty instrument until Charlie Christian — most famously — "plugged in," adopted a saxophone-like approach to linear improvisation and became a celebrated sideman in one of Benny Goodman's popular ensembles. Arguably, the electric guitar did — and for some people perhaps still does — have difficulty creating a historically accurate jazz aesthetic.

Challenging the notions of the jazz performance. In this article and accompanying transcriptions, I have identified such stylistic characteristics of Grant Green's improvisatory approach to the blues as his use of space to encourage "call and response," a reliance on the blues scale as a basis for improvisatory material, short repeated "blues" motifs or "riffs," superimposition of vi minor for a I Dominant 7th chord and extensive employment of both vibrato and glissandi. I have demonstrated that these aforementioned characteristics are present in all three solos.

Although my principal goal in this article was to provide a style and musical analysis of Green's approach to the blues, a secondary aim was to provide a musical counter argument to such writers as Michael Cuscuna who suggests that Green was "a man whom we [the jazz world] lost to the commercial world" [30] and Ben Sidran, who compares Green's foray into commercial music as an attempt to make "a sow's ear out of a silk purse." [31] Through the transcription process I found that these three improvisations, representing differing facets of Green's career, share more than they differ. I suggest that what critics Cuscuna and Sidran object to in Green's commercial output is aggregation and repertoire rather than Green's performance style which remained largely consistent throughout his career. Green's later output and wide reaching repertoire seems to polarize these critics expecting a more "classic" conception of jazz guitar. I can remember the first time I heard a late-era Green record. I expected a sonic aesthetic, classic instrumentation and repertoire reflective perhaps of an easily indexable jazz lineage. Instead, I heard a guitarist playing with a group that included an electric bassist and conga player, performing a repertoire of compositions spanning styles I had previously thought of as antithetical. Clearly, Green challenged my more tightly circumscribed notions of a jazz performance. As I have argued here, we may have to reconsider those notions, if only to grant Green his proper place in jazz historiography.

  On a final note, Green's late-era music has been discovered and celebrated by many current pop DJs and producers. For example, Green's "Down Here on the Ground" (Alive!) is sampled in Madonna's "Forbidden Love." With these sounds reaching millions of listeners around the globe, Green's rich music ultimately did garner the widespread attention for which he strove.

1. See: Andrews Green, 1998: 27. Return to text
2. Ibid. Return to text
3. Cfr. Corbett, 1996: 82. Return to text
4. Sharony Andrews Green (1998: 2) argues, Green "helped change forever what people could expect from a guitar, but never received the commercial acclaim he desperately sought." Return to text
5. Cfr. Sidran, 1997. Return to text
6. Ibid. Return to text
7. Cfr. Ake, 2002: 169. Return to text
8. See: Richardson, 1999: 299. Return to text
9. See: Porter, 1997. Return to text
10. See: Richardson, 1999: 282. Return to text
11. See for example: Scott, 2003. Return to text
12. Ibid. Return to text
13. See: Robinson, 1980. Return to text
14. Ibid. Return to text
15. Ibid. Return to text
16. Cfr. Richardson, 1999: 282; Scott, 2003: 114; Gushee, 1977. Return to text
17. Ibid. Return to text
18. Ibid. Return to text
19. Cfr. Richardson, 1999: 290. Return to text
20. See: DeVeaux, 1991. Return to text
21. Ake (2002: 60) uses Art Kane's photograph "A Great Day in Harlem" to portray jazz as stylistically, gender, race and geographically inclusive. Return to text
22. I borrow the term "traditioning" from chapter 6 — "Jazz traditioning: setting standards at century's close" — of Ake (2002: 146-176). Return to text
23. See for example: Ake, 2002: 57; DeVeaux, 1991: 544. Return to text
24. See: Gioia, 1997: 201. Return to text
25. See for example: Gridley, 2003: 136-166; Gioia, 1997: 199-275. Return to text
26. See: Gioia, 1997: 204. Return to text
27. Ibid. Return to text
28. Cfr. DeVeaux, 1991: 544. Return to text
29. Grant Green, Carryin' On (Blue Note CDP 724383124725, 1995 [1969]); Grant Green, Iron City (32 Jazz CD 32048, 1997 [1977]); Grant Green, I Want to Hold Your Hand (Blue Note CDP 724385996221, 1997 [1965]). Return to text
30. See: Cuscuna, 1997. Return to text
31. See: Sidran, 1997. Return to text

  • Ake, David Andrew (2002), Jazz cultures. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press.
  • Andrews Green, Sharony (1998), Grant Green: the forgotten genius of jazz guitar. New York: Miller Freeman.
  • Corbett, John (1996), "Deep in the groove." In: Downbeat Magazine, December 1996, 82.
  • Cuscuna, Michael (1997), Liner notes for: Grant Green, Grant Green: The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark, Blue Note CD 57194, 4.
  • DeVeaux, Scott (1991), "Constructing the jazz tradition. Jazz historiography." In: Black American Literature Forum, 25, 3 (Fall), 525-560.
  • Gioia, Ted (1997), "Modern jazz. The birth of bebop." In: Ted Gioia, The history of jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 199-276.
  • Gridley, Mark C. (2003), "Bop." In: Mark C. Gridley, Jazz styles: history and analysis. New Jersey: Prentice Hall (eighth edition), 136-166.
  • Gushee, Lawrence (1977), "Lester Young's Shoeshine Boy." In: Leo Treitler et al. (eds.), Transmission and form in oral traditions, in: International Musicological Society: Report of the Thirteenth Congress, Berkeley 1977. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 151-169.
  • Porter, Bob (1997), Liner notes for: Grant Green, Grant Green: The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark, Blue Note CD 57194, 6.
  • Richardson, Jerry (1999), "B.B. King. Analysis of the artist's evolving guitar technique." In: Steven C. Tracy (ed.), Write me a few of your lines. A blues reader. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 282-314.
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  The short sound fragments on this page are copyrighted. They are used here according to the rules of fair use and academic quoting. The fragment of "Gooden's Corner" (1:11 min.) can be found on The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark (1997 © Blue Note); the sample of "Blues For Lou" (1:25 min.) has been taken from the studio sessions album Blues for Lou (1999 © Blue Note); the fragment of "High Heeled Sneakers" (1:07 min.) was published on the album Iron City (1967 © Cobblestone Records); and the short introductory solo of "Grand Slam" (31 sec.) originates from Charlie Christian's album The Genius of the Electric Guitar (1939 © Columbia).
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