Johnny Griffin: And the Great Danes (2003)
“Just Friends” kicks things off in fine roughshod fettle with both tenors galloping at full speed before Thilo takes the lead and devours a long string of choruses. Around him Clausen comps brightly while Vinding speed walks on fat amplified strings and Riel’s sticks work his skins into a frothy lather. Griffin sidles up on heels the heels of his partner, annexing his share of improvised stanzas at a slightly less boisterous stride and quoting freely from other melodies along the way. Clausen’s ivories take the third solo spot and stretch out with rhapsodic flourishes. Soon after Riel’s drums engage in a series of agile breaks with the phrase-trading horns and the inevitable end arrives. “All the Things You Are,” a long-time favorite of Griff’s, bounces along on Vinding’s corpulent bass line. Thilo is again first out of the gate and a lithesome statement from Caulsen separates his loquacious sortie from Griff’s more measured and smoothly melodic jaunt through the changes. Rounding the tune out with another row of volleys with Riel the horns again engage in spirited chases.
The band checks their rambunctious urges at the stage side for the slow romance of Griff’s own “When We Were Young.” Mid-piece, a breathtaking unaccompanied section unfolds from the composer’s horn in warmly radiating waves, creating a lingering mood that is easily the high mark of the entire disc. Together the shift in tempo and mood show a welcome versatility and set a beguiling stage for the fireworks of the follow-up. As one of the signature vessels for tandem tenor tirades, the old Ammons/Stitt warhorse “Blues Up and Down” seems a must for this multi-national duo. Both men rise to the occasion and do the original duo proud, locking horns in a playful test of wits, lured on to ever increasing improvisatory heights by their ever-attentive rhythm mates. The last few years have marked a gradual ebb in Griff’s recording frequency, making this mid-Nineties slice of his oeuvre all the sweeter. During this summer date proof of the venerable saxophonist’s artistry was alive in the air for all hear.
Stunt on the web: http://www.sundance.dk
Track Listing: Just Friends/ All the Things You Are/ When We Were One/ Blues Up and Down/ Body and Soul/ Rhythm-a-ning.
Personnel: Johnny Griffin- tenor saxophone; Jesper Thilo- tenor saxophone; Thomas Clausen- piano; Mads Vinding- bass; Alex Reil- drums. Recorded: July 17, 1996.
Record Label: Stunt Records/Sundance Music