It's Your Thing

While we've all heard countless lackluster renditions of this tune (there was a rash of them in TV commercials during the summer & fall of last year, it seemed), this take of "It's Your Thing" stands apart. I'm a big fan of Idris Muhammad's drumming on this take - it seems near ready to boil over at times, simmering nicely throughout, keeping the otherwise pretty static vamp from bogging down. As in the studio take of "Ain't It Funky Now" from earlier in '71, the key element here of Idris' playing - and the band's as a whole - is keeping it in the pocket. Perhaps more admirable in this instance, as it's a live gig. Certainly the ostinato pattern held down by Green, Bartee, vibist Bill Bivens and organist Ronnie Foster (at turns) does a lot to hold the groove in place. I'm also struck by the inclusion of vibes in a "funk" setting - actually more struck by the fact that this group makes it work as part of the orchestration on more up tune like this - vibes have always seemed to have a certain mellowing effect to me, but here Bivens makes it happen in a percussive sense.

The tune opens up right into the solos from tight, concisely arranged melody. Overall, Grant makes use of his mastery of timing and thematic development, utilizing space nicely to drop his terse phrases just so. Green's playing here is somewhat more animated than the "Ain't it Funky" session - Grant even hustles through an uncharacteristically fleet descending triplet lick about a minute and a half in to his solo - a flurry of notes that in the context of the rest of his solo comes off as faster and more pyrotechnical than it really is. Bartee also cuts loose a little more, moving into some wailing spirals in his solo (not quite as heavy as St. Clair Pinckney's Ayler-esque, upper register harmonic flights in response to James Brown's "blow me some Trane" on some "Superbad" takes from this period) - yet still comes off as a bit restrained, as if he's not quite willing to let go . Seems the energy is certainly there behind him in the band, with Muhammad chomping at the bit, and the rest of the band locked in on the vamp. All in all, another great example of how to keep it "in the pocket" - a lesson ironically lost on many of the "acid jazz" groups that professed to follow in Green's stylistic footsteps.

It's Your Thing
Grant Green - Alive! (Blue Note CDP 7243 5 25650-2)
"Cliche Lounge", Newark, NJ, August 15, 1970