Grant Green Biography – Jazz Guitar Life Book Review

Jazz Guitar Life would like to thank Jazz Guitarist Joe Finn for his time and insight in writing this review!

Well, I finally read it. The biography of Grant Green: Rediscovering the Forgotten Genius of Jazz Guitar was written by his daughter in law Sharony Andrews Green. And while she never actually met him, she was married for a time to Green’s youngest son, Grant, Jr.

This book is actually more like an oral testimony than biography. In fact it almost reads like an autobiography of the author at times who inserts herself into the narrative, referring to herself in the first person throughout. There are lots of pictures of the author and her former husband as well. As well, most of what the book contains is based on interviews with family members who give their personal recollections of Grant Green and reminisce about having known him. Ironically enough Grant Green was largely absent from his family’s life due to his itinerant schedule as a musician and his long history of drug abuse. I don’t think I saw anything in this volume that I had not read in Green’s liner notes or online. And since the author is not a musician there is precious little discussion of his musical evolution, the actual music he played, or the style he developed. The extent of her unenlightened perspective is highlighted by her many references to popular music artists like Ike and Tina Turner, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, et al. And if this does not tell you everything you need to know about the author’s cultural point of view; when it comes to jazz she incorrectly identifies Jon Faddis and Lew Soloff as trombonists.

There is however a section at the end of the book by Swiss musician Tobias Jundt who reviews several of Green’s more significant recordings pointing out some of the high points in his prodigious catalogue. These reviews are well informed, skilfully written and well worthwhile. A discography is also included at the conclusion of the book for anyone who has not seen it online.

So if you are interested in musical details about how Grant Green ascended to become one of the great stylists of his generation, keep looking. This book is mostly about the mundane, day to day elements of Grant Green’s life. It would have worked better as an article in Jazz Times or Downbeat.

Joe Finn is a jazz guitarist in the mainstream tradition who plays in a variety of settings from solo guitar to big band, and from organ trio to various combo settings. His critically acclaimed quartet won the BET network’s Jazz Discovery Showcase award in the jazz instrumental category in 1998. His seven CD’s as a leader on JFP records have gotten rave reviews and extensive national airplay. The current edition of The Joe Finn Quintet features Michael Benedict on vibes, Pete Sweeney on drums, Mike Lawrence on bass and Wayne Hawkins on piano. The quintet’s new album As Luck Would Have It was released in June 2021.

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