Grant Green, Jr.: A Jazzman at Heart
Guitarist Grant Green has kept listeners hip and nostalgic through his Masters of Groove music group projects and traditional jazz works. And although his new album on “The Burt Bacharach Songbook” is still a work in progress, the jazz guitarist will include a preview of the future release in his performance at The Velvet Note on Oct. 20.
“He is one of my favorite American composers,” Grant says. “His sense of melody in a song like ‘Alfie’ is beautiful and timeless.”
Grant, 64, says his love for all types of music made him the multidimensional musician that he is today. The self-proclaimed Led Zeppelin fan recalls how one-time pop songs such as “Days of Wine and Roses,” “Misty,” and “Stella by Starlight” later became jazz standards.
“Basically that’s what I’m doing with the Burt Bacharach stuff, he says. “It’s great material that you want to put your own spin on.”
While Bacharach is an artist that Grant looks to, there are many others. He’s named after his father, the late guitarist Grant Green. As a child, Grant Jr. spent part of his childhood in Detroit living near Motown greats, and New York City where he had a bird’s eye view of the jazz scene.
In Detroit, Stevie Wonder’s parents were neighbors. Outside Marvin Gaye’s home only a few blocks away, Grant and his buddies would perfectly time playing football on the big island in the middle of the street to when the singer would arrive home.
“He would come out and play football with us,” Grant says. “Detroit was very musical back in those days. I learned more of my pop, R&B and rock in Detroit. Stevie was a huge influence on me. Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ kind of changed my life.”
The musicianship of Grant’s father, however, has had the greatest sway over him. “He highly influenced me,” Grant says. “He’s why I play the guitar.”
The elder Grant, who inspired the likes of Carlos Santana and George Benson, was not interested in his son following in his footsteps. He preferred that young Grant become a doctor or a lawyer. But, from adolescence the son had studied his father playing the guitar, and at age 17 Grant gained his musical respect.
“I used to go to all of his shows as a kid and I would go home and mimic them,” Grant says. “That’s how I actually learned. When he finally took me serious as a musician, it was because I got to the point where I used his material and I could rehearse with the band.”
Grant wrote a song as teenager that his father was unaware of until one day when it caught Grant Sr.’s attention as the band’s keyboardist played it during downtime from rehearsal.
“My father thought the keyboardist wrote it but he said, ‘No that’s your son,” Grant recalls. “He said to me, ‘Show me the melody.’ That’s when he took me seriously as a musician. ”
Grant titled the tune, “My Father’s Song.”