JAZZ CORNER Presents: Grant Green – ‘Idle Moments’ (1965)
I find it a sincere shame that there is not more jazz where the primary instrument is the guitar. That said, I’ve heard fine soling jazz where there’s been no other instrument other than those relying on wind, and of course the piano … yet guitar, that’s a different breed, one requiring the delete balance and interplay of others, supporting members who understand how to enhance a guitar, bringing out its full sound and allowing it to flower without being stepped on.
If anyone understood that concept, it was Grant Green, whom on Idle Moments, which is anything but, surrounded himself with an assemblage of some of the best musicians from the time, including Joe Henderson on sax, Al Harewood on drum, Duke Pearson on piano, Bob Cranshaw holding down the double bass and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, all players we’ve come to know an love; featured on the recordings of others. This assemblage use all of the be-bop licks, though they manage to bend the presentation ever so slightly in order to expand not just Green’s guitar, but the sonic nature of the entire band.
With Green being ever present, in the same breath he’s not, where at times Hutcherson and Green share the platform of playing lead (or the head), where each come off as nearly co-equal partners, sharing and creating spaces for melodic runs within the confines of the space available. Considering that, I was swept back when unmistakable blues licks ebbed from my speakers, at times even reaching into his pockets and going blues heavy within the construct of his developing melodic ideas, ideas that support the notion of allowing the bass and drums to shine without taking over one’s listening space. This brings me to the point where I want to say that Joe Henderson is delightful and prominent in a fashion I’ve never been aware of before, I might even say elegant, though within that beauty he manages to hold back, using a restraint developed over years of playing that allows Green to always sound in control.
Perhaps this is the single most significant pure jazz album Green has ever made, a captured treasured moment in time, recorded in two session in November of 1963, where without a doubt the seminal track “Idle Moments,” a nearly fifteen minute serene instrumental penned by pianist Duke Pearson, with the unheard of length coming about nearly by accident, being the last track laid down, sometime around midnight, where according to Pearson, the story goes, “‘Idle Moments’ was the final track to be recorded during the first night, where with the playing times of the other three tracks already being in the can, meant that ‘Idle Moments’ could be no more than seven minutes in length, as anything over that would burst the maximum LP playing time of around forty minutes. But due to a misunderstanding, Green soloed for 64 rather than the planned 32 bars, where Henderson and I, along with Hutcherson followed suit, each soloing for twice as long as had been expected. Fortunately, producer Alfred Lion had both the ears and wit to keep the tape machine running.” And as if that weren’t enough, two of the numbers “Jean De Fleur” penned by Green, and John Lewis’s “Django,” were re-worked and re-recored nearly two weeks later in shorter versions, thus allowing for the “Idle Moments” opus to be included in it’s entirety. (laughing) I’ve never been one for alternate takes, yet these two songs are the alternate takes, with the delicious longer versions for “Django,” which itself runs over thirteen minutes, along with “Jean De Fleur” had been hidden away, lost to all but a few privileged folks until compact discs come along, where you are able to hear those two sensational sessions in their entirely, as they were laid down … where I assure you, it’s a dream come true.
The album is sincerely tight, yet still finds ways of infusing breath and improvisation into it, proving that combos featuring guitarists are more than worthwhile, a hidden gem of understated chord progression splendor. Idle Moments is a record that came as close as one could get to greatness at the time, where over the years, the divine chemistry and unselfishness of all players involved have taken it far beyond greatness, where this record stands firmly in the top 50 albums of all time for any sincere jazz listener.
*** The Fun Facts: Grant Green played on a Gibson ES-330 until the mid 1960s. This thinline, double cutaway guitar had P-90s (single coil elements) instead of the Humbuckers of the more popular ES-335 model. Later, Grant Green played a Gibson L7 with a Gibson McCarty pickup/pickguard. Grant achieved his tone by turning off the bass and treble settings of his amplifier, and maximizing the midrange. And yes, that’s a Gibson featured on the album jacket.
There are countless versions of this album one may choose from, some selling for as much as $350US, though if it’s the sound quality and enjoyment your after, with out compromising or breaking the bank this presentation (Blue Note – ST-84154, Blue Note – B0020424-01, UMe – B0020424-01, Blue Note – 84154, Blue Note – BST 84154) is just fine for my ears and my total McIntosh system and B&W speakers, the album’s nice and quiet, there was little if any distortion on my copy and very acceptable surface noise.
– Jenell Kesler