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Sharony Andrews Green

Grant Green - rediscovering the forgotten genius of jazz guitar

Backbeat Books, San Francisco

274pp illus paperback 087930698X $16.95


A prolific star of the Blue Note label Grant Green died at the age of forty-three, victim of a heart attack induced by the familiarly depressing cocktail of hard drugs, erratic eating habits and fitful neglect. Sharony Andrews Green, his daughter-in-law, has compiled what Iíd call less a biography than an oral testimony, a kind of journalistic reportage. It draws on the recollections of a number of associates, colleagues and friends as well as the memories of Greenís son. The bias of the book is one of active reclamation of Greenís memory and influence in the light of its alleged influence on the contemporary scene (thereís a less than enthralling diversion on the London dance scene in the 1980s which sampled some of Greenís music). Sharony Andrews Green has enlisted others to focus on the specifics of the music making whilst she seems far less comfortable with jazz and far more so with the posthumous life of Greenís music in a few acid house tracks.

Inevitably weaving herself into the text Ė as the wife of Greenís son Grant Green Jr Ė gives the book a sense of intimacy but the degree of immediacy is tempered by the relative paucity of hard facts. Greenís life was, musically and in other ways, one of unceasing movement. He seems to have taken on jobs regardless and the fact that, once he had emerged into the limelight, he recorded a staggering seventeen albums in his first Blue Note year, 1961, speaks pretty much for itself. Nevertheless some details emerge well; some of Greenís early years and influences are well, if succinctly, covered; the importance of organist Jimmy Smith canít be overstated, the place of drugs and the Muslim faith in his and others lives are made forcibly apparent. There is some analysis of some of Greenís albums by Swiss critic Tobias Jundt and these provide the kind of critical insight frequently submerged in the main body of the text by slang and demotic.

The text is at best serviceable; quotations abound and are made to do the work a biographer should do; the narrative is as a result a losing compromise between the tape recorded interview and linking passages. But admirers of Green will find useful things here, amidst the journalistic cuttings and the unedited transcripts, though they will have to work hard at it. As an act of homage to the father-in-law she never knew it seems to represent a kind of quest for the author. Others will exercise more caution.

Jonathan Woolf


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