Grant Green (June 6, 1935 – January 31, 1979) was an American jazz guitarist and composer.
Recording prolifically for Blue Note Records as both leader and sideman, Green performed in the hard bop, soul jazz, bebop, and Latin-tinged idioms throughout his career. Critics Michael Erlewine and Ron Wynn write, “A severely underrated player during his lifetime, Grant Green is one of the great unsung heroes of jazz guitar … Green’s playing is immediately recognizable – perhaps more than any other guitarist.” Critic Dave Hunter described his sound as “lithe, loose, slightly bluesy and righteously groovy”. He often performed in an organ trio, a small group featuring a Hammond organ and drummer.
Apart from fellow guitarist Charlie Christian, Green’s primary influences were saxophonists, particularly Charlie Parker, and his approach was therefore almost exclusively linear rather than chordal. He thus rarely played rhythm guitar except as a sideman on albums led by other musicians. The simplicity and immediacy of Green’s playing, which tended to avoid chromaticism, derived from his early work playing rhythm and blues and, although he achieved a synthesis of this style with bop, he was a highly skilled blues and funk guitarist and returned to this style in his later career.
Grant Green was born on June 6, 1935 in St. Louis, Missouri to John and Martha Green. His father was at various times a laborer and a Saint Louis policeman.
Green began studying guitar while he was in primary school. He received some early instruction in guitar playing from his father, who played blues and folk music. He studied for a year with Forrest Alcorn. But he was mostly self-taught, learning from listening to records.
He first performed in a professional setting at the age of 13 as a member of a gospel music ensemble. His influences were Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Jimmy Raney. He first played boogie-woogie before moving on to jazz. His first recordings in St. Louis were with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest for the United label, where Green played alongside drummer Elvin Jones. Green recorded with Jones for several albums in the mid-1960s. In 1959, Lou Donaldson discovered Green playing in a bar in St. Louis and hired him for his touring band. Green moved to New York at some point during 1959–60.