Although Grant Green provided his share of groove-oriented soul-jazz and modal post-bop, his roots were hard bop, and it is in a bop-oriented setting that the guitarist excels on Born to Be Blue. Most of the material on this five-star album was recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's New Jersey studio on December 11, 1961, when Green was joined by tenor titan Ike Quebec, pianist Sonny Clark, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Louis Hayes. Tragically, Quebec was near the end of his life -- the distinctive saxman died of lung cancer at the age of 44 on January 16, 1963 -- but there is no evidence of Quebec's declining health on Born to Be Blue. He was playing as authoritatively as ever well into 1962, and the saxman is in fine form on hard-swinging interpretations of "Someday My Prince Will Come" and Al Jolson's "Back in Your Own Back Yard." It's interesting to hear Quebec playing bop, for his big, breathy tone was right out of swing and was greatly influenced by Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. Although Quebec and Green (who was 14 years younger) had very different musical backgrounds, they were always quite compatible musically. They clearly enjoyed a strong rapport on the uptempo selections as well as ballads like "My One and Only Love" and Mel Torme's "Born to Be Blue." Originally a vinyl LP, this album was reissued on CD in 1989, when Blue Note added an alternate take of the title song and a previously unreleased version of Charlie Parker's "Cool Blues."
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson