One Track Mind: Grant Green "It Ain't Necessarily So" (1962)

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Have I really gone this far without shining a spotlight on Grant Green? Wow. Grant Green is an all time favorite guitarist of mine. He was one of the few out there who was technically amazing and could squeeze so much soul out of each note at the same time. Lou Donaldson, who plucked Green out of obscurity, has said that George Benson and Pat Martino appropriated some of Green’s style in their own, and I believe it.

Green’s versatility made him a favorite at the Blue Note label for which he’s made all his best recordings. And luckily, there’s a lot to show for it; Green was the most recorded artist at the label both as a sideman and a leader between 1961 and 1965.

Of all those classic albums he cut during this prolific period, the best has got to be The Complete Quartets With Sonny Clark. Originally issued as two records, Nigeria and Oleo, Blue Note combined the sessions with alternate takes into a 2 CD set about fifteen years ago. Originally recorded at the end of 1961 and the beginning of 1962, these sessions paired the great guitarist with a great pianist in Sonny Clark. Clark, whose intricate stylings took Bud Powell’s technique into the hard bop realm, was the perfect match for Green’s innate sense of swing.

The album’s second cut “It Ain’t Necessarily So” rode on an euphoric feel on a level I don’t think I’ve ever heard in any other jazz performance recorded in the studio. That’s reason alone to become a topic for a One Track Mind. There’s more to it than that, though.

The drummer for this song is none other than an in-his-peak Art Blakey. The Jazz Messengers leader captains this recording as well, kicking things off with his familiar Latin-styled 12/8 rhythm before quickly settling into a jazz classic shuffle. As Green is locked into some wonderful soul-jazz zone, Blakey can be heard adding “oh’s!” and “whoo’s!” that the cymbal mics had picked up.

As with many of the other tunes on these sessions, Green alters the basic melodic line in clever ways, but here, it’s not even recognizable as the Gershwin tune that bears its name. When he states the theme with sharply-picked single line notes, it’s nearly an entirely different song. Soon, he launches into a solo full of vamps, ostinatos and just generally playing to the groove. That might sound like nothing out of the ordinary, but no one did these things better. He had that tone.

Clark solos next and like Green, never strays from the rhythmic pattern, playing an inspired combination of chords and single notes that struts in concert with the drummer. It’s so righteous that Blakey exhorts him to keep going as Sonny was preparing to hand off after the ninth chorus.

Thanks to Blakey not wanting to end a good thing so soon, “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is stretched out to over ten minutes, but it still seems to end all too quickly to me. The boys were clearly inspired and one can never get enough of inspired playing.

At it’s best, classic jazz is a joyous sound; this is what makes Grant Green’s presentation of “It Ain’t Necessarily So” a classic jazz recording that’s among the finest.

Could Grant really play? Yeah, he could play…


“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

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