Grassella Oliphant

The Grass Roots/The Grass Is Greener

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This is one of the hipper two-fers Collectables has ever issued. It pairs the only two recordings drummer Grassella Oliphant ever released as a leader -- he was a solid sideman in the 1950s with Sarah Vaughan, and then later with singer Gloria Lynne and organist Shirley Scott. Both these titles were released on Atlantic. The first, The Grass Roots, features saxophonist Harold Ousley, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, and bassist Ray McKinney. It's a varied date ranging from killer groove soul-jazz such as Ousley's "One for the Masses," covers of "Stardust" and "Mood Indigo," and hard bop swingers like "The Descendant" (also written by Ousley). Oliphant's playing is delightfully understated but his contrapuntal work with Hutcherson is literally startling. Ousley's playing should be noted for its fury and tenderness, depending on the tune. His use of restraint is tentative because it allows him to bust it wide open at all the right moments with a big fat reedy tone. The second album featured here, The Grass Is Greener, is a straight-up groove date with organist John Patton, guitarist Grant Green, trumpeter Clark Terry, Major Holley on electric bass, and Ousley, who also contributes some tunes on the set. It opens with a fine cover of Allen Toussaint's "Get Out of My Life Woman," and includes a killer read of Patton and Green's "Soul Woman." The album, recorded two years after the first, is much more focused in its soul-jazz articulation. Each cut is a monster, and the LP has been sought by collectors for years. It has been sampled heavily by DJ and rap artists for good reason -- it smokes.

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