Ballads captures Grant Green in a mellow mood, offering something like a portrait of an artist as a young guitarist. All seven selections are from 1960 and 1961, mostly, as the liner notes state, because Green performed ballads less often as time went on (especially as a leader). It's instructive and gratifying, then, to have pieces like "My One and Only Love" and "Nancy (With the Laughing Face)" in one place. The personnel varies quite a bit since each cut originates from a different album, though pianist Sonny Clark plays on four cuts, including the lovely "Little Girl Blue." Flutist Yusef Lateef, organist Jack McDuff, and drummer Al Harewood join in for a delicate, impressionistic rendering of "My Funny Valentine," while bassist Ben Tucker and drummer Dave Bailey add minimalist support to a moody version of "'Round Midnight." On each tune, four of which exceed seven minutes, Green takes his time developing his ideas. He can dazzle, but he'd rather hold a note or allow a phrase to linger in the air for a moment. He'd rather wring a few more blue notes out of "God Bless the Child" than impress the listener with his speed and agility. For those unfamiliar with Green's softer side, Ballads offers a fine introduction. For those in the know, Ballads conveniently collects these pieces in the same place, creating an exquisite late-night disc.
AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.