Grant Green's Solo on:
"MAMBO INN"(Mario Bauza)
It's a little hard for me to believe that after all
these years of listing Grant Green as amongst my all-time favorite
players, that I never bothered to transcribe any of his recorded work.
Believe me, I had most of them and played them constantly. But recently,
I was making a 'Latin Jazz Sampler' for a dear friend, and decided to include
Grant's version of "Mambo Inn," which was written by the great 'Machito'
and has always been a particular favorite of mine. In the tight circle
of Latin music, this tune is a 'standard' and everyone is expected to know
it! Before I gave the CD-R as a gift, I listened to it several times, and
each time I heard this solo, I began to say to myself: 'Oh go ahead, you
can do this one too!' And so, here it is, the product of an afternoon's
work. "Mambo Inn" appears on Grant Green's wonderful recording which was
entitled, "THE LATIN BIT"(Blue Note), but as of this date, it is
still only available on CD as a Japanese import.
Originally recorded in 1962, Grant Green was accompanied
here by Latin masters Willie Bobo(Drums) and 'Patato' Valdéz(Congas),
in addition to: Johnny Acea(Piano); Wendell Marshall(Ac.
Bass) and Garvin Masseaux(Chekeré). What I always felt was
so amazing about the accompaniment here was that, during the melody, the
chekeré played even 8th-notes, but when Grant Green begins to solo,
Masseaux shifts to seemingly impossible triplets which he continues throughout
the piano solo and another couple of guitar choruses, in total some 4-minutes
before the melody returns! The feel of the track is also aided by Bobo's
choice of a ride cymbal with rivets which, to me, really aids the swing!
It's probably worth noting that Machito's version
of his own tune is played in the key of F. But here, Green and his bandmates
chose to play it in C. Obviously, we're not given any information as to
exactly why this shift in keys was made but it does seem to place the melody
in a warmer range of the guitar. For players of his generation, Grant Green
was pictured and heard most often playing a Gibson 335 which was
certainly rare considering that the other guitar greats of his time were
all playing Gibson guitars with wider bodies such as the L-5; Super
400 or the ES-175. Green's choice of instrument gives his tone
great edge and bite, which seems to fit his style and is a bit more 'bluesy'
than his counterparts.
For an analysis, the fact that it's in 'C' makes
it far easier to spot Grant Green's usage of harmonic alterations. And,
if truth be told, if you just glance over Pg. 1, you hardly see any alterations
which could lead one to draw the conclusion that he played in a pretty
diatonic style! But, as I will attempt to point out, he was very well-versed
in the language of the idiom and applies those touches in just the right
places. For example, during chorus  Green only touches upon the
b9 by using an Ab over the G7 chord in bar 3 and a Bb over the A7 chord
in bar 6. He does touch upon the major 3rd(C#) of the V7 of ii, the A7
chord until bar 6 of [A2]. There is also the nice touch of inserting,
via his lines, the sense of an A7(13b9) by playing a descending Gb(F#)
triad in bar 4.
When we arrive at the first [B] section,
and there is a ii-V to Eb major, you can again see that there are no accidentals
played. However, during the bars 6-7 of this section, he plays a very nice
'classic' descending chromatic line. This first chorus concludes with a
very melodic [A3] which is again free of accidentals until the last
bar when he plays Bb, the b9 of the A7 chord to turn things around for
the return to Dm7. From here, we arrive at chorus  where things
become far more 'jazzy.'
In [A] of chorus  Grant Green employs
a nice touch of using G# as a chromatic lower neighbor to the root A of
the A7(alt.) chord in bar 2. Then, there his own special touch with the
little triplet figure at the end of bar 3 which so important to the expression
of jazz in this idiom. In bar 4, Green employs the D harmonic minor scale(D,
E, F, G, A, Bb, C#) over the Em7-A7(alt.). In bar 5, he uses an Eb, which
could be considered the b9, but here it's really functioning more as a
chromatic upper neighbor to D, the 5th of G7. There's also a nice moment
during bar 8, where he passes over a sense of Ebm7 as it goes down one-half
step to the 'target' harmony of Dm7.
During [A2] of chorus , Green is
still playing very melodic but diatonic lines, and in bar 4 you should
take note of the small phrasing mannerism of the 8th-note and 2 16th-notes
on beat two. A phrase such as this goes by virtually unnoticed, as it should
be, but you should always make certain that you are playing such things
correctly, with verve and bounce because they add to the perception of
swing. In bar 5, it is my feeling that he passes through a brief Ab Dorian
area, you'll notice the little line which includes: Eb-Bb-Cb-Ab, before
touching upon G and F which would clearly put back inside of G7. Then in
the following bar, Green employs a chromatic passing tone in C major going
from the D to the E before adding the nice jazzy touch of the Bb(b9) against
the A7(alt.) chord. In bar 7, he uses a classic minor flavored jazz line
where you surround the root, in this case D of Dm7, with E and C#, I've
always felt that doing this is a linear way of inserting a sense of an
A7 chord before the actual harmony of D Dorian. All jazz players end-up
knowing and utilizing this type of line formation on minor chords. It is
When we have arrived at [B] of chorus , and we're back in Eb major he plays a nice little line in bars
1-2 over the Bb7 chord which outlines the #5-b5-9th-7th and the 13th. This
leads him into a beautifully formed line with a classic shape over Eb major.
Those of you who might feel that you are having trouble with this aspect
on major chords would do well to actually learn this particular line! During
bars 5-7, the line over Am7-D7 is also a classic shape, and you couldn't
go wrong in learning this one, and playing it in all the various keys.
It also nicely touches upon the b9(Eb) even though this D7 chord is never
to arrive at a real G chord in the following bar. In bar 8, we again see
the allusion to the sense of D harmonic minor as you view the insertion
of a Bb and the eventual C# over the A7 chord. As this chorus concludes
in [A3], through bars 3-6, Green plays a line simply in C major
with many repeated notes before landing on a C# over the A7 chord which
begins another statement of the classic minor line we referred to in the
preceding paragraph. Again, C# and E surrounding the D of a Dm7 chord.
For [A] of chorus , Grant Green
brings his blues roots to the table, but during the 1st four bars, there
are no 'blue notes,' but the 'feeling' is all blues! Finally in bars 5-6
you can see that he hits the blue note of Gb while making a gradual ascent
from F to G, passing over it once again on the way back down. In [A2],
we are presented with a totally blues-based section and these phrases,
to my ears as a Grant Green fan, are 'classic' Grant Green blues-isms.
So, for you Grant Green nuts out there, these are phrases you'd want to
emulate in some way.
At letter [B], the first 4 bars in Eb are
totally diatonic, but there's a nice little touch using the natural 4th(Ab)
in bar 4 and I wouldn't be at all surprised if this type of line didn't
have some influence on a young guitarist named, George Benson! I
would also recommend that you take note of the small slurred phrase in
bar 5 which descends from a B-natural down to G. This is also the guitar's
way of approximating the slurred legato phrases over the great horns players.
Finally in the last bar, bar 8, Green, in a sense, ignores the G7 chords
and seems to be applying a sense of a Gm7 which, in this case, I would
view as applying G Dorian over an Em7b5(ii-type chord) of A7(alt.). This
arpeggiated line flows, yet again, into a sense of the D harmonic minor
scale over the A7(alt.) giving it a classic jazz sound.
As he concludes his solo at [A3], Green reaches
the top of his register finally hitting a high 'A.' But, in general, throughout
the solo, I would say that you are seeing far more ledger lines in his
playing than in most solos by guitarists! Again, in bar 4, he passes through
a Gb(F#) triad over the A7(alt.) which gives us a 13b9 sound. You also
might want to pay attention to the little ascending chromatic triplet 'gliss'
in bar 6, again, this small detail is essential to augmenting your jazz
phrasing! Finally, the solo closes with another line accentuating both
Bb and C# over an A7 chord which again gives us the D harmonic minor sound
applied over a V(alt.) chord headed to minor!!!
Blaine and I have chosen to add a wonderful B&W,
Wolff photo of Grant Green, which comes from a book titled, "THE
BLUE NOTE PHOTOGRAPHS - A Book of Postcards." This wonderful little
book was a gift from my dear sister, Laurie, some years ago, and
I do treasure it, as I do her. You may have already discovered that we
have added Mr. Wolff's photos of Herbie Hancock and George Benson
to the appropriate pages too. There is such great beauty in all our art
forms, and it's important to take a moment to enjoy them, especially during
the most difficult of times. As always, this comes to each of you with
the hope that you are safe and doing well, and, enjoying the 'flowers that
bloom' in May.
[Photo of Grant Green by Francis Wolff, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, November 26th, 1960.]