Jazz at 100 Hour 79: Soul Jazz – Guitar

Grant Green

Hard bop created a comfortable setting for a suite of great blues-influenced guitar players who led the way toward soul jazz. Several of these players were from the mid-west – Wes Montgomery from Indianapolis, Grant Green from St. Louis and Detroit’s Kenny Burrell. The next three hours of Jazz at 100 will present music from the 1960s that combined the heavy beat and blues-influenced phrasing of R&B with the harmonic discoveries of bebop to create a style loosely called Soul Jazz, starting with these guitar players. Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell in this hour of Jazz at 100.

Wes Montgomery.
“Whether through necessity or choice, he pared down the guitar vocabulary of the bebop years, replacing the convoluted, note-filled phrases of the post-Christian period with taut, uncluttered solos. Using his thumb instead of a pick, Montgomery produced a vibrant, singing tone on the instrument, reinforced by his frequent use of octave melody lines… [Of] this generation of guitarists, Wes Montgomery stood out as the most skillful in combining commercial appeal with jazz street cred. An incisive soloist with an unsurpassed gift for melodic improvisation, Montgomery was an ideal candidate for crossover success as a pop jazz star. His recordings cover a wide gamut—from straight-ahead to soul jazz to mood music—but his singular talent gave even the most blatantly commercial efforts a stamp of artistry.” – Ted Gioia

“…an enthusiastic recommendation by Cannonball Adderley led to the Riverside label’s signing Montgomery in 1959. Under the direction of producer Orrin Keepnews, Montgomery recorded extensively over the next several years in jazz combo settings with top-quality sidemen, creating a number of milestone performances, including … ‘West Coast Blues’ …” from the LP, The Incredible Jazz Guitar. – Ted Gioia

The day after The Incredible Jazz Guitar session, Montgomery was in the studio with Cannonball Adderley’s brother Nat to record the Work Song LP. On the title tune, Wes Montgomery hits what Morton and Cook describe as “a tense, almost threatening groove.”

West Coast Blues. Wes Montgomery Quartet
(Tommy Flanagan-p, Wes Montgomery-g, Percy Heath-b, Albert Heath-d). From The Incredible Jazz Guitar. 1/26/1960

Work Song. Nat Adderley Sextet
(Nat Adderley-cor, Bobby Timmons-p, Wes Montgomery-g, Sam Jones-cel/b, Percy Heath-b, Louis Hayes-d). From Work Song. 1/27/1960

“Montgomery’s harmonic and rhythmic ingenuity led him to compose pieces that admiring musicians described as ‘tricky.’ ‘Twisted Blues’ is a good example; as the title implies it seems to start out as a blues but goes off in a different direction, ending up as a thirty-two bar structure built on a near sixteen-bar blues played twice. Montgomery initially recorded it with a small group in 1961, and made it an almost nightly part of his sets. By the time he rerecorded it in 1965, with a big band deftly arranged by Oliver Nelson, the piece was practically second nature to him. Although this version was made just as he was beginning to make the transition to pop, it is far more effective than the original.” – Gary Giddins & Scott DeVeaux

Twisted Blues. Wes Montgomery with Oliver Nelson Orchestra
(Donald Byrd-tp, Joe Newman-tp, Ernie Royal-tp, Wayne Andre-tb, Jimmy Cleveland-tb, Quentin Jackson-tb, Donny Moore-tb, Tony Studd-btb, Phil Woods-as, Jerry Dodgion-as, Romeo Penque-ts, Bob Ashton-ts, Danny Bank-bs, Herbie Hancock-p, Wes Montgomery-g, George Duvivier-b, Grady Tate-d). From Goin’ Out of My Head. 12/22/1965. (The Norton Jazz Collection)

Grant Green.
“Green spent much of his career in the shadow of Wes Montgomery, but though he was less subtle harmonically, he had the ability to drive a melody-line and shape a solo as if telling a quietly urgent story. He also swung mightily and his long run of records for Blue Note is always approachable… [On the LP Born To Be Blue,] Green has, for us, his finest hour, rippling through ‘My One And Only Love’ and ‘If I Should Lose You’ with a ruggedness of emotion that goes hand in hand with the simplicity of diction. Not a note is wasted. Sonny Clark, another Blue Note artist still being reassessed, is also in sparkling form, with just enough light and shade to temper his colleagues’ bluff romanticism. It’s a hefty body of work, illuminated throughout by Green’s infectiously driven beat, but along with a lot of Blue Note repertory acts, he never coasted and never repeated himself.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

My One and Only Love. Grant Green Quartet plus Ike Quebec
(Ike Quebec-ts, Sonny Clark-p, Grant Green-g, Sam Jones-b, Louis Hayes-d). From Born To Be Blue. 3/1/1962

If I Should Lose You. Grant Green Quartet plus Ike Quebec
(Ike Quebec-ts, Sonny Clark-p, Grant Green-g, Sam Jones-b, Louis Hayes-d). From Born To Be Blue. 3/1/1962

Kenny Burrell.
“Inevitably, the tracks on Bluesy Burrell with [Coleman] Hawkins have an imperious quality that nothing else on the set can quite match. But, working with his regular group of [pianist Tommy] Flanagan, [bassist Major] Holley and [drummer Eddie] Locke, … Burrell himself is at his most seductive on ‘I Thought About You’ and his most suavely blue on ‘Montono Blues’. Playing with a very light touch and on some tracks with a nylon-strung guitar for extra delicacy of sound, he has to be recorded well, and there are no problems with that.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

I Thought About You. Kenny Burrell – Coleman Hawkins Quintet
(Coleman Hawkins-ts, Tommy Flanagan-p, Kenny Burrell-g, Major Holley-b, Eddie Locke-d). From Bluesy Burrell. 9/14/1962

Montono Blues. Kenny Burrell – Coleman Hawkins Sextet
(Coleman Hawkins-ts, Tommy Flanagan-p, Kenny Burrell-g, Major Holley-b, Eddie Locke-d, Ray Barretto-cga). From Bluesy Burrell. 9/14/1962

“The best of [Kenny Burrell’s] conventional jazz dates of this period is Midnight Blue, a Blue Note session cut on 6 January, 1963, with a quintet which had Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, and a rhythm section of Major Holley on bass, Bill English on drums, and Ray Barretto on congas … Midnight Blue is some way removed from the casual jam session ambience of some of his earlier discs. It amounts to a kind of extended meditation on the blues as both form and feeling, and is one of the most subtly constructed of all hard bop albums, with a pleasingly coherent, almost narrative flow… The exclusion of piano or organ was entirely deliberate, and if the interloper is clearly Barretto’s congas, they are deftly blended into the blues setting, and add just a touch of lithe Latin colouring within the overall canvas… Burrell loved to explore the possibilities of modest volume and subtle shades, and even the raunchier uptempo tracks are finely controlled and delicately nuanced… brief ‘Soul Lament’ provides a lovely vehicle for the guitarist’s gentler inclinations … and the title tune is a classic down-home blues groove.” – Kenny Mathieson

Soul Lament. Kenny Burrell solo.
(Kenny Burrell-g). From Midnight Blue. 1/8/1963

Midnight Blue. Kenny Burrell Quintet
(Stanley Turrentine-ts, Kenny Burrell-g, Major Holley Jr.-b, Bill English-d, Ray Barretto-cga). From Midnight Blue. 1/8/1963

Wes Montgomery moved from Riverside to Verve Records in 1964 where his increasingly pop-oriented records began to diverge from his straight-ahead jazz live performances. This trend continued as he moved to A&M Records in 1966, where he recorded until his heart gave out suddenly in 1968. He was 45 years old. From 1961 – 1965, Grant Green appeared on more records than any other Blue Note artist. He left Blue Note in 1966, took off several years to manage his drug habit and never hit his stride again in a career that lasted only until his death by heart attack in 1978. By contrast, Kenny Burrell continues to play and record at age 86 from his base as the Director of Jazz Studies at UCLA, where he has recently mentored tenor player Kamasi Washington.

Rarely has a jazz instrument been so completely redefined as the organ was at the hands of Jimmy Smith. In his wake, the Hammond B3 organ gained wide-spread popularity and attracted a suite of talented adherents. B3 players Jimmy Smith, “Baby Face” Willette and Shirley Scott in the next hour of Jazz at 100 as we continue to explore Soul Jazz in the 1960s.

The Norton Jazz Recordings – 4 Compact Discs for use with JAZZ by Scott DeVeaux and Gary Giddins. W.W. Norton 933796.
Wes Montgomery. The Incredible Jazz Guitar. Riverside RLP 12-320
Nat Adderley. Work Song. Riverside RLP 12-318
Wes Montgomery. Goin’ Out Of My Head. Verve V/V6 8642
Grant Green. Born To Be Blue. Blue Note BST 84432
Kenny Burrell. Bluesy Burrell. Moodsville MVLP 29
Kenny Burrell. Midnight Blue. Blue Note BLP 4123

Giddins, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 12. the 1950s: Cool Jazz and Hard Bop
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
Mathieson, Kenny. 2002. Cookin’: Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65. Canongate Books.
Kenny Burrell / Grant Green
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Wes Montgomery. The Incredible Jazz Guitar
Nat Adderley. Work Song
Grant Green. Born To Be Blue
Kenny Burrell. Bluesy Burrell

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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