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Live Review: Grant Green’s Evolution of Funk in New York

The late guitarist’s son Grant Jr. pays tribute at Jazz Standard

Grant Green Jt.
Grant Green Jr. at Jazz Standard, New York, June 30, 2018

Grant Green’s Evolution of Funk, which closed out a four-night stint at Jazz Standard in Manhattan on Sunday, July 1, is an unabashed tribute act. The quintet is fronted by Grant Green Jr., whose late father (1935-1979) remains one of jazz’s sleeper icons. In Blue Note Records’ fertile early-to-mid-’60s, Green the elder was an integral presence, a deft hard-bop guitarist whose horn-like lines and deep-soul licks could be identified through a thunderstorm, and who deserves to be in the same conversation as Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, and even Jim Hall. From the late ’60s into the ’70s, he was also an architect of the jazz-funk and hit-copping that came to underpin smooth jazz, hip-hop, and certain strains of dance music.

Evolution of Funk, as the name implies, leans mostly on that latter phase, which might disappoint a decent chunk of Green’s cult. Still, in Sunday’s first set, the band did a fabulous job of paying homage to his hard-grooving and pop-leaning sides. With a lineup of Green Jr. on guitar, Donald Harrison Jr. on alto saxophone, Marc Cary on organ and piano, Khari Simmons on electric bass, and Mike Clark on drums, its destiny was manifest. (Monte Croft guested on vibes earlier in the Jazz Standard run.)

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