Johnny Griffin: Live/Autumn Leaves
Back in the heyday of bop, Griffin earned a reputation as "the world's fastest saxophonist." Judging by the breakneck tempo he sets on this CD's title cut, you'd think he was trying to hold on to that moniker! Recorded in Paris in 1981, Live showcases Griffin, pianist Ronnie Mathews, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Kenny Washington performing 3 standards and 2 originals that give the "little giant" plenty of room to blow. I don't think anyone has plowed through "Autumn Leaves" the way Griffin does here. It's virtually unrecognizable as the tender ballad we are all accustomed to. Ellington's "Prelude To A Kiss" shows that there is more to Griffin's playing than just raw speed. He handles this lovely ballad with subtlety and grace. Griffin spent some time working with Thelonious Monk in the late '50's so it's no surprise that he often turns to Monk's compositions for inspiration. His relaxed, yet swinging version of "I Mean You" makes for the perfect set closer. Griffin and his band are solid throughout as all hands seem to be energized by the opportunity to record in their natural habitatan intimate club with an appreciative audience.