December 7, 2016

Grant Green - The Complete Quartets With Sonny Clark (1962)

December and January are my favorite months to listen to jazz. Sometimes the best thing to do on a winter weekend is put on an extended Blue Note session and do nothing but mindlessly chill out for a few hours. There are a few good options for this: I have in mind Sonny Rollins' Village Vanguard date, Kenny Dorham's Cafe Bohemia performance, and the complete Groovin At Smalls' Paradise sessions from Jimmy Smith. I revisit the Grant Green/Sonny Clark quartets more than any of those other Blue Note epics, however. Green always comes correct; I'm not sure if that's a "you like what you know" effect (he was pretty much the only guitarist for Blue Note in the early-mid 60s), but even on a two hour-plus collection, his music doesn't get old to me. These cuts were originally released in the 80s as archival albums (Oleo and Nigeria), but were properly fleshed out in this epic display of wintry mood music in the 90s. I'm shocked that Blue Note didn't release these legendary sessions when they were first recorded, but I guess Grant Green hadn't really established himself as a marketable name at that point. It is difficult to pin down what makes a certain jazz session stand out to me; I guess it really just comes down to if I can pick up on how well the band members are vibing with each other (a matter of semantics, I guess). Also, the recording quality usually speaks as much to me as the actual music does; the fuzziness, or the echo, or the way the drums are positioned in the mix are a few examples of what might have some extra input on the overall experience. So, in that respect, the sessions feel unrushed and open like a feel-good weekend chill session. Grant Green is top-billing (and who even knows when that would have been determined), but I think it's the veterans like Sonny Clark, Sam Jones, and Art Blakey who begin to open up the dialogue with the Blue Note newcomer. Sonny Clark is one of the best pianists to ever grace the Blue Note repertoire, and it is a shame that he had to die so young and not be able to continue a musical partnership with Grant Green. We should be thankful that Blue Note offers this amazing compilation.