Johnny Griffin: Live at Ronnie Scott's (2010)
Griffin, who passed away in France in 2008, where he had lived for the past 24 years, was a fixture on the European jazz scene. Drummer Billy Cobham and trumpeter Roy Hargrove also spend a good deal of time in Europe, and join Griffin for this last session, along with bassist Reggie Johnson, a transplanted American who currently lives in Switzerland, and British pianists David Newton and James Pearson.
The session opens up with a particularly lively rendition of the Lester Young tribute, "Lester Leaps In," with Hargrove and Cobham both enjoying solo moments as Griffin tees off in his usual speedy style. On the almost thirteen-minute follow-up, "When We Were One," the tempo slows to a crawl, as both horn men present a bit of tenderness, their performances playing off each other with an engaging, beautiful melody. Newton is simply superb here, with a warm solo roundly appreciated by the supportive audience. "Mentor" is the other ballad piece, featuring Hargrove taking a decidedly soft approach, followed by another piano embrace from Newton.
Pianist Paul Kuhn makes a guest appearance on the jazz standard "How Deep Is The Ocean," sadly delivering a lackluster vocal performance on a piece where neither Griffin nor Hargrove are featured. Newton and Griffin combine for some tasteful soloing on "The JAMFS Are Coming," which also features Johnsoninexplicably excluded from the personnel listing on the CD tray cardwith some of his best bass lines.
Griffin's aptly titled "Hot Sake" delivers a dozen minutes of fire, with successive sweltering heatwaves coming from Hargrove, Newton, Johnson and Cobham. Griffin could not have known that Live At Ronnie Scott's would turn out to be his swan song; as such, this belated birthday bash is, in essence, a parting birthday gift from Johnny to his fans.
Track Listing: Lester Leaps In; When We Were One; The Blues Walk; Mentor; How Deep Is The Ocean; The JAMFS Are Coming; Hot Sake.
Personnel: Johnny Griffin: tenor saxophone; Roy Hargrove: trumpet, flugelhorn; James Pearson: piano (1); David Newton: piano (2-4, 6, 7); Billy Cobham: drums; Paul Kuhn: piano (5), vocals (5).
Record Label: In + Out Records