Guitarist Grant Green came into jazz rather later than is usual. He was twenty-eight when he appeared on his first jazz record and almost thirty before cutting an album under his own name. These tracks were made only a few months after Green arrived in New York at the start of the 1960s. He had already built a small reputation with Harry Edison's little band but his fame soon spread further when audiences heard him with saxophonist Lou Donaldson.
It was through Lou that Grant landed his first recording contract (with Blue Note) and his albums, which contained good jazz yet had an even wider appeal, sold well. These important initial hurdles behind him, Grant established himself as a first rate musician who earned the respect of fellow guitarists and contemporaries on other instruments.
Interestingly enough, Grant Green rose to prominence at a time when Wes Montgomery's influence was most pervasive amongst up-and-coming plectrists, but Grant's style owed nothing to the genius from Indianapolis. Green preferred the quicksilver, single-note lines of other giants- particularly Charlie Christian and Jimmy Raney.
At any rate, drummer Dave Bailey must be given credit for being one of the first cats to dig Grant Green in New York. When Dave was asked to put together a date for the Jazztime label, he sought out Green. Grant was able to return the favor a few weeks later for on his second Blue Note session he used Bailey plus Ben Tucker, the bassist on the session.
Dave's faith was amply rewarded, for Green turned in a series of excellent solos, notably on One for Elena and the Rodgers and Hart standard, Falling in Love with Love. Unfortunately, not too many people got to hear these sides because Jazztime albums were poorly distributed and soon vanished without trace.
"It is without doubt that Grant Green is one of the most versatile of jazz guitarists. His scope is unlimited to the degree that he cannot easily be 'typed'," pianist Duke Pearson once wrote. True, and it was even the case in these earlier moments of Grant's career. I think this was the result of his wide experience and background in other spheres of music-rock and roll and rhythm and blues. While his entry into jazz was late, as I've already pointed out, he was actually a pro musician at the tender age of 13! His teenaged listening to Charlie Parker records stood him in good stead. Sadly, Grant Green was to die on January 31st 1979 at the early age of forty-seven.
Tenor saxophonist Frank Haynes was born in the same year as Green (1931) and they both arrived by their different routes in New York during 1960. Haynes played with Randy Weston and Walter Bishop, Jr., even recorded with Les McCann, but never got much recognition. His recordings with Dave Bailey constitute the main body of this legacy, for Haynes died of cancer in November 1965. Haynes knew how to construct a solo, his tone was personal and he certainly deserved a better fate.
The other members of the group perform their tasks expertly. Bailey is a deft and light timekeeper who moves things along without ever getting overbearing. He and Tucker work hand in glove and pianist Gardner, who has subsequently been heard as organist elsewhere, has a pleasing touch and an unpretentious, satisfying style.
It's weird that Dave Bailey, an experienced all-rounder, whose credits include important stints with Gerry Mulligan, the Farmer/Golson Jazztet, Bob Brookmeyer and Clark Terry, was thirty-four before leading his own group on record. He made five dates in a 15-month period during 1960/61, but since then there have been no further Bailey-led sessions. The type of jazz Dave favors suddenly became unfashionable in the mid-1960s when many cats were extracting tortured sounds from their horns. But surely in today's "back to jazz" climate, Bailey will again be listened to intently. Like Green, he has the technique and taste that a new generation of players are trying to acquire.
The preoccupation with modality in the early 1960s following Miles Davis' Kind of Blue, is reflected by Reaching Out, a 16-bar exercise in the modal manner by guitarist Rudy Stevenson (Bailey invariably used one or two of his compositions on each date). The reaching out, and stretching out, is successfully accomplished by Haynes, Green and Gardner, helped in no small measure by Bailey's beautiful accents and Tucker's perfect choice of notes-the twine around this specific musical parcel.
Our Miss Brooks, a slow blues written by tenor saxophonist, Harold Vick, was recorded by the composer for Blue Note and it's interesting to note that Grant Green was also present on that version. Vick, who is reluctant to explain the significance of the title, replaced Haynes in the Walter Bishop, Jr. quartet when Frank died. This lengthy performance has a different solo routine with Haynes first in the "crying" order, then Green, Gardner. Grant's solo is very low-keyed and a feature of the track is the unison comping on one and three, while Bailey emphasizes four.
Ben Tucker's catchy, A Flick of a Trick is a simple eight-bar theme with a jaunty beat. Bailey puts the group into a marching mood. Gardner takes the opener and gets into a Red Garland bag. Green struts his wares fluently. Haynes is heated and expressive. Tucker, whose bass lines are soulful throughout, takes a short walk. All you can conclude from these eight and a half minutes is that the chick in question must take a groovy photograph!
There's a nice co-operative feel about the proceedings, and Billy Gardner's One for Elena moves attractively through several keys in its 24-bar chorus. Haynes has the melody but Green is the first soloist, opening up with a tumbling little figure. Grant unfolds his ideas well, so does Haynes in his strongly-stated solo. The composer follows a more delicate course before Frank's return.
The second Ben Tucker composition, Baby, You Should Know It, is a blues with trimmings. Tucker has the intro with punctuations from piano and drums and a nice bit of closing interplay between Green and Ben. Haynes preaches heatedly. Green gets into the lowdown, rocking groove with Dave and Ben marching along in back. Gardner glides gracefully along. Tucker almost has the last word. Baby, now you know it!
Falling in Love with Love finds Grant at his most lithe and persuasive as he colors the Rodgers and Hart tune in bright, swinging hues during an extended solo. Haynes and Gardner have briefer bits, but obviously dig these changes.
The essence of the six components that go to make up Reaching Out are good musicianship, unity of approach and a natural quality that is only found after the necessary years of dues have been paid. This is, in fact, an album you will find yourself returning to many times - more often than some of the titles by bigger names on your shelves. That's because these five men had something to say and said it disarmingly and without artifice.
- Mark Gardner
1. Reaching Out (take 4) (5:30), 2. Our Miss Brooks (take 4) (7:00), 3. A Flick of a Trick (take 1)(8:26), 4.One for Elena (take 5) (6:13), 5. Baby, You Should Know It (take 3) (9:24), 6.Falling in Love with Love (take 1) (5:29), 7.Reaching Out (take 1) (6:44), 8.Our Miss Brooks (take 1) (10:06), 9.One for Elena (take 4) (7:48)
Frank Haynes (tenor saxophonist), Grant Green (guitar), Billy Gardner (piano), Ben Tucker (bass), Dave Bailey (drums)
Recorded at Nola's Penthouse Studios, New York City
March 15, 1961
Recording Engineer: Tom Nola
Original Supervision by Fred Norsworthy
Reissue produced by Alan Bates
Photograph: Francis Wolff
Layout & Design: Ric Simenson
This CD has been remastered from the original recording tape. All background noises, such as pops, clicks or other noises have been removed as much as possible without compromising the original recording quality.