A Grant Green Birthday Tribute Featuring Will Bernard, Calvin Keys, and Carl Lockett

May 11, 2006

Green was revered for his mastery of bebop lines, subtle phrasing, laid-back pocket, and a clear, warm tone. The king of understatement, he continues to inspire players who value taste over flash. Green was the most prolific artist on the prestigious Blue Note label during its ’60s golden era. Green Street, Born to Be Blue, and Idle Moments are undisputed classics, and his work on Matador with Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner is a lesson in playing it cool, no matter how hot the surroundings. As his career progressed, Green played more funk, blues, and pop material. 1972’s Live at the Lighthouse is a shining beacon that marks where groove and melody meet. Green died suddenly of a heart attack in 1979, but his groove work certainly helped inspire the ’90s acid-jazz movement.

Will Bernard was one of those inspired by Grant Green who found success during the acid-jazz explosion. As a member of T.J. Kirk (with Charlie Hunter), Bernard was nominated for a Grammy in 1997. His debut as a bandleader, 1998’s Medicine Hat [Verve], ran the gamut of roots-based musical styles, and that trend continues on his latest release, Directions to My House [Dreck to Disc]. Bernard is a groove hound, and he tours regularly with the MG5, which features Galactic’s funky rhythm section of Stanton Moore and Robert Mercurio. Like Green, Bernard has a tendency to underplay at times, which adds an element of surprise when he drops his chops. Bernard’s ability to swap energy with the crowd and climax a solo at the opportune time adds an element of excitement to each and every show.

Calvin Keys is guitar veteran who made his first solo record, Shawn Neeq, in 1971, and got his big break recording and touring with Ray Charles shortly thereafter. Keys went on to play with legendary pianist Ahmad Jahmal, Tony Bennett, and Pharaoh Saunders. Celebrated for his single-note style, Keys is a kindred spirit to Grant Green, who was a contemporary Keys always admired. “I appreciate the way Green executed Charlie Parker-inspired bebop horn lines with such clarity,” Keys told GP. “You can really hear and feel each individual note.” Keys is a 30-year resident of the Bay Area, and was honored by the City of Oakland with a “Key to Creativity” for a lifetime of performing arts excellence. Keys’ new CD, Vertical Clearance [Wide Hive] is a soul jazz affair that should appeal to Grant Green fans of all eras.

Carl Lockett Locket is an organ trio expert who has played alongside many of the same greats as Grant Green, including Jack McDuff and Jimmy Smith. Sparks will surely fly between Lockett and organist Will Blades on June 6! But Lockett is also a very versatile player who style crosses the boundaries of jazz, funk, blues, and pop. Lockett’s 1999 release, All About Music, shows the influence of Grant Green’s pop crossover material, especially his mastery of the ballad, and it offers an idea of what Green might sound like if he was still alive and aiming at the masses the way he did in his later years. Carl’s new CD, Strollin’ with Mr. Lockett [Unbeaten Tracks], is set for release in the very near future. “Lockett told GP, “Grant Green is one of my heroes, and it’s an honor to take part in this well-deserved tribute.”

Guitar fans who go for great grooves and adventurous improvisation must make a point to be on hand when this crew of top Bay Area guitar players pays tribute to one of the all-time greats, Grant Green.

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