Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis/ Johnny Griffin Quintet: Blues Up & Down
Tandem tenor teams enjoy an illustrious history in improvised music: Herschel Evans and Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas, Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray, Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, Fred Anderson and Kidd Jordan, the list goes on. One duo that often doesn’t get its fair share in terms of prestige and influence is the one documented so generously on this disc. “Jaws” and “Griff” easily rank with the aforementioned pairs and the albums on this two-fer bear out their case for inclusion in bold relief. Their jointly fronted quintet was one of the hardest blowing in the business during 1960s and this was due in no small part to their regular sidemen, Mance, Gales and Riley.
On the first album gathered here Mance sits out and relinquishes his stool to the somewhat less at ease Mayers, but the group circumvents any stumbling blocks posed by the change in personnel and commences to setting into their signature brand of hard charging swing. Griffin was (and still is) widely regarded as one of fastest players in jazz and he doesn’t disappoint on this date blowing rapid-fire rings around the rich-toned phrasings of Davis. But what Davis sacrifices in the way of speed he more than compensates for in terms of depth of sound. The tunes are largely blues-based originals with the title track, a favorite of Ammons and Stitt, tossed in for compositional variety.
On the second date recorded nine months earlier Mance is a member of the group and the rhythm section sounds slightly more in tune with one another. With a tightened rhythmic garrison behind them Griffin and Davis seem even more committed to showing off all their instruments have to offer in the way of toe-tapping swing and spirit. Leaping headlong into tight harmonies, nimble unison phrases and vigorous solo passages each man revels in the moment and goads his partner to new expressive heights over successive choruses. No egos or arrogance, just good old fashioned, visceral blowing. Listeners with the least bit of love for the tenor saxophone owe it to themselves to procure this disc and the others available by this top-flight twosome at earliest convenience.
Track Listing: Camp Meeting*/ Blues Up and Down*/ Nice and Easy*/ Oh, Gee*/ Walkin