Grant Green Has a Spiritual Awakening
as close to "easy listening" as Blue Note gets
This must have been a "walk in the park" session. As the annotation says, "Surely all the songs played are too familiar to necessitate comment," although like looks, sounds can be deceiving. All of the familiar tunes—including "Just a Closer Walk With Thee","Go Down Moses" and "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" are taken at an unhurried pace and while at first it may sound simple, relaxed and self-evident, pay attention on "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen" to the call and response between Green and the then 23 year old Herbie Hancock. It's special bordering on amazing.
Speaking of familiar, the album was released in 1963. Listen to the ensemble's take on "Joshua Fit De Battle Ob Jericho" —especially Hancock's vamp—and consider that Horace Silver released his album Song to My Father in 1965. The similarity between Green's arrangement and Hancock's playing may be coincidental but it sure rang a familiar bell.
Didn't mean to sell short the contributions of Billy Higgins on drums and Butch Warren on bass. Both tastefully underplay the parts leaving plenty of open spaces and Higgins' fills are masterful. Listen to his tom and cymbal work on "....Motherless Child". So tasty! Hancock breaks into "It Ain't Necessarily So" on his solo, which goes from a quote to a dazzling display of technique.
Speaking of which, Green delivers plenty of that as well without ever sounding flashy or overaggressive. Gospels are celebratory, spirituals minor key and dark. This record sets a mood, but with "Go Down Moses" ("Let my people go") its more Passover and less Chanukkah.
True, it's not exactly Christmas spirit music, but if you're looking for a great sounding Blue Note and great sounding Grant Green record, this one's both. So don't passover it!