Steve Grossman: Love Is The Thing

By the time the young Grossman made this set, the sharp-suited 80s hard-bop revival was under way, but his inspiration probably predated that


Grossman was at an early stage in his career when this set was recorded back in 1985, and his work is that of a musician arguably destined to enjoy the status of a journeyman, a term I’ve applied to Charles Davis in another JJ review, and which has in the past been applied to the likes of Brew Moore. It’s clear also that Grossman’s debts to the greats, notably Coltrane and Rollins, are pronounced.

Coltrane is unsurprisingly to the fore on Naima, where the Walton, Williams & Higgins cartel sets out its stall as a trio which is accommodating a guest as well as proving their mettle as a cohesive unit. In his solo Walton manages to coax some fresh variations out of the well-worn material, while in his Grossman captures Coltrane’s way of occasionally letting a phrase trail off into evocative silence.

Rodgers and Hart’s I Didn’t Know What Time It Was is emblematic of the overall programme, and while Grossman’s take on it might put a smile on the face of anyone walking into a jazz club, there is little that makes it stand out from the pack.

My praise for this one is faint not simply because the album documents the leader at a formative stage in his career, but also because the modern bop marketplace was getting crowded even when the album was recorded: making some distinctive mark in the music 39 years ago was already far from easy.

Various often sharply suited young reactionaries have come along since then and made an impression on those who perhaps have an ear only for the familiar. There’s nothing inherently wrong in this, but the argument regarding supply outstripping demand is surely pertinent.

Naima; Easy To Love; My Old Flame; Easy Living; I Didn’t Know What Time It Was; 415 Central Park West; What’s New (42.35)
Grosssman (ts); Cedar Walton (p); David Williams (b); Billy Higgins (d). Milan, Italy, May 1985.
Red Records 123189-2