Johnny Griffin was a bop-influenced player who was capable of handling the rigors of both Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and a stint with Thelonious Monk. Often given credit as the world's fastest tenor player (at least for a time), Griffin enjoyed a good tenor battle as much as the next guy, but he also could deliver a solid quartet album such as this one.
1956's Johnny Griffin is pretty typical mid-fifties fare: a few standards, a couple of originals, and a blues or two, comparable to albums by Dexter Gordon or Hank Mobley from the same era. There's nothing here that Griffin can't handle, from the bouncy "I Cried For You" to the tricky "Riff Raff," to the catchy original blues "Satin Wrap," which is a great almost-standard. The members of the rhythm section, which features Junior Mance and Wilbur Ware, are veterans who know how to give a player like Griffin the support he needs to really take off, and Mance really gives it all he has when given the chance to play over blues changes.
However, Griffin still gets the most solo time. He is indeed a fast player, yet each note is distinct and clear in the endless runs he creates, never giving the impression of rushing things. The only drawback is the ballads, where Griffin starts out letting the notes hang, but soon falls back to flooding the line with notes where a delicate approach would have been more appropriate.
Be that as it may, Griffin has created a fine album that is a good example of the bread and butter of many saxophonists from the mid-fifties.
Personnel: Johnny Griffin - tenor saxophone; Junior Mance - piano; Wilbur Ware - bass; Buddy Smith -drums.