Yesterday I received the coolest email. The Harlem International Film Festival accepted “The Grant Green Story,” a documentary about the late jazz guitarist Grant Green, into its 11th annual event. Green is my former late father-in-law. He is best known for his work with Blue Note Records, America’s first independent jazz label, during the company’s heyday, the early to mid-1960s.
Among the amazing individuals featured in the film are Grammy Award-winning musician George Benson, legendary Blue Note sound engineer Rudy Van Gelder, record producer Michael Cuscuna and alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson who first discovered Grant in St. Louis, Grant’s hometown, in the late 1950s.
In this feature length film, my former husband, Grant Jr. (not to be confused with his brother Greg, a wonderful guitarist in his own right who performs under the name Grant Green Jr.) sets out to learn more about his father via his own memories and those of others. The people he meets in and outside of Detroit – where he lived with his father for three years before the elder Grant died at the age of 43 in 1979 – include Michigan Congressman Jon Conyers Jr.. Conyers has worked tirelessly to make sure jazz is known as a American institution and a unique contribution to modern culture by people of African descent.
Years ago, NPR invited me to do a tribute to Grant. It’s good seeing continued interest in the music of a talented soul. It is also wonderful to finally get a chance to add two of those laurels we often see in movie trailers to this film’s trailer (latest edit may be still synching).
The Harlem International Film Festival takes place September 14-18. 2016. This festival has a special place in my heart. It was the first institution to see value in a screenplay on which I have been working for several years. “Day Work,” now called “You Dresses, Me Shoes,” won an honorable mention in the festival’s screenplay category a few years back. Secondly, the festival is in Harlem, a neighborhood I often visited when I lived in New York from 2000-2003. As a scholar, I am interested in the impact of gentrification on communities like this one. There are plusses and minuses. Attending this festival will be way to see the many facets of this issue. I often tell my students one can often intuit and learn more when one physically inhabits a space. Books can tell us only so much. Finally, Harlem has meaning because the elder Grant collapsed from a heart attack and died in Harlem in 1979. He was taken to Harlem Hospital, a place where I also had a surgery. I met great doctors and nurses there who made me feel very taken care of during that time. So much is coming full circle in the best of ways.