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Friday, July 25, 2008

r.i.p. Johnny Griffin

Johnny Griffin, April 24, 1928 - July 25, 2008

There goes another of the great ones - and a personal hero of mine. This is very sad. Reportedly the little giant has led a good life for the past decades, living in rural France with his family. Thank you for all the great music you left, I will always cherish that huge unmistakeable sound!

Mel Martin Interview

I have already shared two shows of Griffin's here, both are still up for takers:

Johnny Griffin & NDR Big Band - Hamburg 1992
Johnny Griffin - Szekesfehervar 1969

The third show which I uploaded quite a while ago, I hesitated to share at all because there was so little interest in the past two offerings, however, now I offer it in memory of this great musician and I hope it finds some interest.


Johnny Griffin
Mönchengladbach (Germany), Kaiser-Friedrich-Halle
March 10, 1976

Johnny Griffin - tenor sax
Wilton Gaynair - tenor & soprano sax
Leo Wright - alto sax
Slide Hampton - trombone
Ingfried Hoffman - piano
Jimmy Woode - bass
Art Taylor - drums

1. My Blues (21:23)
2. All the Things You Are (14:56) [Griffin & Rhythm only]
3. Music Inn Blues (22:54)

TT: 59:16

Sound: A/A-
Source: unknown, prob. radio broadcast


Edits: divided #1 and #2

Tracklist I received with disc:
1. unknown title
2. My Blues
3. All the Things You Are
4. Music Inn Blues

Disc had two tracks, 36:19 and 22:54
- Griffin01 & Griffin02 are Track01
- Griffin03 is Track02

I am not sure if tracks 1 and 3 are correctly named.


Griffin made his first recordings with Lionel Hampton's band, played R'n'B with Joe Morris, Wynonie Harris, Arnett Cobb and others, and then in 1956 started recording as a leader of his own jazz combos. It's hard to pick favourites from the years following 1956, highlights are many: his "JG Tenor" album for Argo, his third Blue Note album "The Congregation" (the opening title tune is likely my all-time favourite Griff solo!), his first quartet album for Riverside ("Way Out"), the Blakey Jazz Messengers album with Thelonious Monk, the Monk gig documented on "Monk in Action" and "Misterioso", and of course "A Blowing Session" (Blue Note) with John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, and a teenage Lee Morgan. In between he also appeared on my albums with the unsung second edition of Blakey's Jazz Messengers (with Bill Hardman and Jackie McLean), as well as on albums by A.K. Salim, Clark Terry, Wilbur Ware, Ahmad Abdul-Malik, Blue Mitchell, Babs Gonzales, Philly Joe Jones, Chet Baker, Nat Adderley, homeboy Ira Sullivan, and others, and he was also on one of Randy Weston's (now here's a giant still trodding the earth!) finest early efforts, "Little Niles" (United Artists). In 1960 he made his Riverside album "The Big-Soul Band", constantly on the brink of desaster, but turning it into a great album. And around the same time, his partnership with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis was recorded for the first time. That two-tenor team put out another string of fine albums on Prestige and Riverside/Jazzland. On his own albums, Griffin tried out some more varied settings, recording with organ on "Grab This!" (Paul Bryant), french horn and twin basses (on "Change of Pace"), with strings (the magnificient "White Gardenia" in homage to Billie Holiday), whilst appearing on more albums as a sideman, under the leadership of Wes Montgomery, Bennie Green, Johnny Lytle and others.
Then in the early sixties, after the disappearance of Riverside, Griffin relocated to Europe, playing with Bud Powell and hooking up with Kenny Clarke (again) and Francy Boland, which led to his longtime membership in the great Clarke-Boland Orchestra. Griffin's easily identifiable solo voice can be heard on many fine albums by that outfit and by related small groups, recorded throughout the sixties. In 1970 MPS recorded him with "Lockjaw" again and the partnership would continue on and off again
Griffin turned up on some European jazz musicians' albums (Klaus Doldinger, Vaclav Zahradnik, Peter Herbolzheimer) but also occasionally reunite with visiting Americans such as Dizzy Gillespie or Roy Eldridge, or he'd join in some of Norman Granz' jam affairs. In the late seventies, he recorded in the US again, around the same time Dexter Gordon celebrated his homecoming. The two teamed up for a Carnegie Hall concert in 1978, and Griffin recorded several fine albums for Galaxy as well. In 1985, he joined the celebrations at New York's Town Hall when the Blue Note label was re-founded. He continued to gig and led fine bands, recording with the likes of Michael Weiss, Ronnie Mathews and Kenny Barron. Some fine albums came out on Dreyfus and Minor Music, teaming him up in duo settings with Horace Parlan and Martial Solal, as well as in a two-tenor workout with Steve Grossman.
He left a fine legacy, and I will certainly continue to play his music for years to come, and in the days to come, he'll have a special place in my heart and in my CD player, too. Thank you for all the music!


ubu said...

FLAC this time, so it's a bit big... but it's got that signature sound of Griff's, so check it out!

neil said...

Sad News. There's a Johnny Griffin obituary here: