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I Want To Hold Your Hand
LP (12" album, 33 rpm)
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I Want To Hold Your Hand
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A Blue Note essential, I Want To Hold Your Hand is part of the Blue Note 75 anniversary vinyl reissue campaign, featuring 100 titles
and key to the initiative is high quality audio at affordable prices
. Also available this month on LP: Art Blakey Quintet's A Night At Birdland, Vol. 1, Bobby Hutcherson's Components, Lee Morgan's Search For The New Land and Medeski Martin & Wood's End Of The World Party (Just In Case).
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Part of exploring jazz is the enjoyment you get from discovery and then gradually or sooner, buying and digging great music that has appealed to multiple generations and is still in modest but faithful demand. I read about Green, and bought "Idle Moments" and that was all I needed. Hugely influenced by sax player Charlie Parker, Green preferred taking a horn approach to his playing, eschewing most rhythm guitar playing and waiting his turn to play with some of jazz' greatest players. Not that he couldn't play chords - he did a three piece album "Green Street" that has his chord work, and it's just as tasteful as his leads, although not as prevalent.
"I Want To Hold Your Hand" was recorded in 1965, and the inclusion of the Beatles' much loved tune shows the enormous impact they had on music at large. Chet Atkins did a great album of nothing but Beatles tunes, called "Chet Atkins Picks On The Beatles". Wes Montgomery covered "A Day In the Life" and "Eleanor Rigby" on one album, and of course rock musicians and others have been, in my opinion, mangling songs that did not need redone, the worst of all Joe Cocker's atrocity "With A Little Help From My Friends". This version is so bad Cocker should have faced capital punishment for it.
But Grant Green, like Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix, showed his own brilliance with a very different take on the song. With a little help from Larry Young (pun intended), the legendary Hammond B-3 player, who would do a fantastic jam with no other than Jimi Hendrix in a few short years, titled simply "Young/Hendrix" that first appeared on "Nine To The Universe" but is now on a four disc Hendrix compilation, Green creates a totally different vibe and through careful use of the original vocal melody lines, showed how even a raw blistering rock song could have new life as a hard bop tune. I have always been of the view that only the best have ever covered the Beatles successfully, citing the opinion that their music was perfect as was, and nobody could improve on them. (Aerosmith is another band that deserves severe punishment for destroying "Come Together"). Green doesn't make "I Want To Hold Your Hand" better, but still does a masterful arrangement.
This album is a tad bit more laid back in places, but it's vintage Grant Green and Larry Young. I'll admit due to my age (56) that what were considered standards in the glory days of hard bop, the early 1950's to late 1960's, can be unfamiliar to me. Some were show tunes, and ironically, for being a musician myself who loves lots of different stuff (see my other reviews to see what I mean), I hate musicals, as they somehow define cornball in very specific terms to my ears, but what makes jazz so special is taking an otherwise duff song like "My Favorite Things" and making it actually good, as Green did on another album. So the song origins don't matter as much as his ability to make them good, and providing as tasteful and melodic soloing as you'll ever hear. This album isn't his best that I have, and I still have several to go, maybe with the exception of his 1970's stuff that is usually described as very sub-par, due in part to his tragic drug addiction. That honor right at the moment goes to "Street of Dreams", another of three albums he did with Larry Young. Still, it's great, and a must have for Green fans. Now to get to his debut, and a few other chestnuts.
~ At the time of these recordings, Grant Green was already an established star and served as `the house guitarist' for Blue Note. Over the years, Green would record with a virtual who's who of the jazz organ (including Brother Jack McDuff, Sam Lazar, Baby Face Willette, Gloria Coleman, Big John Patton, and Jimmy Smith); however, nothing surpasses his guitar-organ-drums sessions with Larry Young and Elvin Jones. At the time of these recordings, Jones was best known as the hard-driving drummer in the John Coltrane band, while Larry Young was earning a reputation as "the John Coltrane of the organ" because of his distinctive modal approach to the Hammond B-3 at a time when Jimmy Smith's blues-based soul-jazz style defined the sound of the organ. Indeed, the Young-Green-Jones recordings represent a significant departure from the earlier soul-jazz recordings that Green made with organist Big John Patton and drummer Ben Dixon. While Green and Young get much of the credit for the harmonic and melodic success of these four albums, the contribution of Elvin Jones is significant and invaluable.
~ Green's 41 minute "Talkin About" album was recorded on 11 September 1964 and features the Young-Green-Jones trio. Green had recently recorded "Matador" and "Solid", two of his most advanced albums, with McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones of the John Coltrane quartet. With "Talkin' About", Green continued to advance in the modal direction he started exploring with the two previous outings; Young and Jones provide there perfect partners for Green's progress. The trio finds a suitable middle ground between the soul-jazz of Green's early days and the modal flavor of his most recent work. Though Young's style was not fully developed yet, he is no longer simply a Jimmy Smith disciple; his playing here is far more adventurous than the typical soul-jazz date, both harmonically and rhythmically. Jones and Young often play off one another to create an intricate pulse that is far removed from the standard soul-jazz groove. The trio's interplay is best showcased on Young's 12 minute tribute to Coltrane, "Talkin' About J.C." and the playful "I'm an Old Cowhand". Young and Green show particularly effective interactions on the ballads "People" and "You Don't Know What Love Is".
~ Young's 48 minute debut as a leader on Blue Note was the wonderful "Into Somethin" album recorded 12 November 1964. Tenor sax man Sam Rivers adds his distinctive voice to the Young-Green-Jones trio. The quartet performs four Young originals plus Green's Other than the blues "Backup," the music is fairly complex, grooving in its own fashion and showing that Young was absorbing Coltrane's modal excursions. Stand outs include Young's relaxed groove "Tyrone", Green's Spanish-tinged "Plaza de Toros", Young's gentle "Paris Eyes", and the blues "Backup". Two versions of Young's "Ritha" are included; one with and one without sax.
~ The Young-Green-Jones trio recorded again on 16 November 1964, this time with Bobby Hutcherson on vibes. The results of this session were released as Green's 35-minute album "Street of Dreams". Compared to other recordings by the Young-Green-Jones trio, "Street of Dreams" presents a rather mellow, dreamy atmosphere. There are only four selections, all standards and all around eight to ten minutes long. The musicians approach the tunes as extended mood pieces, creating a marvelously light, cool atmosphere. Hutcherson is the perfect addition for this project, able to blend in with the modal advancement of the rest of the ensemble while adding his clear, shimmering tone to the overall texture of the album. All the musicians play with a delicate touch that is distinct from the modal soul-jazz on "Talkin' About". There are no fireworks or funky grooves here; the general feel of the album is thoughtful and introspective rather than romantic.
~ On 31 March 1965, the Young-Green-Jones trio recorded their last session as a unit; this time with Hank Mobley added on tenor sax. The resulting 41 minute "I Want to Hold Your Hand" album continues the soft, easy style of the "Street of Dreams" album. However, this time the music is less reflective and more romantic and outwardly engaging. Mobley's breathy, sensuous warmth keeps the album simmering at a low boil, especially on "Speak Low". The repertoire mixes romantic ballad standards like "Stella By Starlight"and gently undulating bossa novas. The title track by Lennon and McCartney is cleverly adapted and arranged into perfectly viable jazz that suits Green's elegant touch with pop standards. The other bossa nova, Jobim's "Corcovado," is given a wonderfully caressing treatment. Even with all the straightforward pop overtones of much of the material, the quartet's playing is still subtly advanced, both in its rhythmic interaction and the soloists' harmonic choices.
~ All four of these CDs are excellent, albeit brief. If you can afford all four, go for it. If you can only afford one or two of the CDs, hopefully the descriptions above are helpful.
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