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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis & Johnny Griffin Quintet: Tough Tenors Again 'N' Again

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It's been over a year since Promising Music's last series of lovingly remastered and repackaged titles from the classic MPS catalog of the 1960s/70s, but they're back with two 2012 reissues that, once again, demonstrate the breadth and depth of a German label that ran the gamut from straight-ahead to fusion, and from down-and-dirty blues to the freest of the free. First up is Tough Tenors Again 'N' Again, truly a lost 1970 classic of muscular and unrepentantly down-the-middle jazz from the twin salvo of saxophonists Eddie “Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin. The two tenor men first joined forces in ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin: Live at Ronnie Scott's

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Once known as the “fastest tenor in the west" for executing fast notes with ease, saxophonist Johnny Griffin leaves one last recording to remember him by with Live At Ronnie Scott's. The album documents a two-night engagement in May 2008, at the legendary London jazz club, to celebrate the artist's eightieth birthday, and features a host of jazz luminaries, all there to pay tribute to a man known as “The Little Giant" of the tenor saxophone.Griffin, who passed away in France in 2008, where he had lived for the past 24 years, was a fixture on the European ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin: Live At Ronnie Scott's

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Live At Ronnie Scott's is likely to draw in a lot of jazz listeners for two reasons. First, this album was the final recording that the late Johnny Griffin--known as a saxophone speed demon--made as a leader. While other unreleased material might make its way to the market at a later date, this is Grffin's last “authorized and artist-approved" release. The second draw has to do with his inter-generational band, featuring multiple marquee names like drummer Billy Cobham and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. While Cobham is often associated with fusion drumming, and Hargrove has played the roles of ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Johnny Griffin: From Johnny Griffin With Love

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Johnny Griffin From Johnny Griffin With Love Storyville Records 2009

Chicago native Johnny Griffin was undoubtedly one of the greatest artists to ever play the tenor saxophone. His technical capacity at high velocity tempi was legendary, earning him the nicknames “fastest gun in the West" and “Little Giant." Not mere empty displays, Griffin's virtuosity served his expressive needs. As Frank Foster has written: “His blazing speed in producing one dynamite phrase after another in rapid-fire succession seemed to be equaled only by the logic in his musical statements--not just a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin: The Best Of Johnny Griffin

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If big things often come in small packages, then Johnny Griffin's case as one of the music's top “tough tenors" really need not be plead. Affectionately nicknamed “Lil' Giant" for his diminutive stature, the late saxophonist was all but diminutive came time to rip through changes and defend his title--as would a proud, prized champion--as the fastest saxophonist roaming the nightclub circuit.

An explosive soloist indeed reputed for his incendiary chops and hearty tone, many often overlook the fact that the Chicago, Illinois expatriate earned the latter part of his sobriquet from those same toughened tenorists with whom ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin: The Congregation

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A highly regarded recording in the impressive discography of Johnny Griffin, this recently remastered RVG edition of The Congregation is more likely to appeal to the faithful than win many new converts. On this 1957 session, the “world's fastest tenor sets aside his gun-slinging ways in favor of comparatively restrained, straightforward preaching, consisting of some basic, rather predictable harmonic-rhythmic rhetoric and, of course, that distinctive sound.

Griffin's ample and slow Leslie-like vibrato is somewhat reminiscent of Dexter Gordon's but without the long tall one's frequently sardonic send-up of swing-era clichés, replacing them with tension-filled, dramatic alternatives ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Bush Dance & Pisces

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These two new discs present three excellent Griffin sessions, one each from the '60's, '70s and '80s, documenting various aspects of his mastery of the tenor saxophone and the jazz idiom in remarkably diverse settings. Bush Dance combines a 1978 all-star date featuring the stellar rhythm section of pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Albert “Tootie Heath plus percussionist Kenneth Nash and special guest guitarist George Freeman, from which the disc takes its title, along with 1983's Call It Whachawanna, which showcases the saxophonist (who recently blew into Blue Note) with his then young working trio of Mulgrew ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis: Pisces

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The early '60s was a golden age for tenor tandems. Towering team-ups like Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, and Eddie “Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin were illustrative of the Zeitgeist. Such a simple formula, joining the talents of two titans on that most popular of jazz horns, but it's one that consistently yielded both artistic and financial profit. For a time the partnership of Davis and Griffin stood at the front of the pack.

The 1962 recording Pisces is unique in discography of Davis and Griffin for several reasons. Firstly, though the saxophonists ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin: Johnny Griffin

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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 ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis Quintet: Tough Tenors

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The appeal of a good cutting session is similar to that of a good boxing match: we all enjoy watching two competitors locked in combat, pushing themselves to new boundaries and discovering untapped resources. Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis went so far as to establish a quintet which allowed them repeated opportunities to duke it out over a series of recording sessions and club dates.

1960's Tough Tenors is their first meeting on record, and – as one might expect – it features plenty of fire-breathing dynamics and bombast. Leaving the more complex material from the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis: Tough Tenors

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What more can be said about the grandiloquent tradition of two tenor conclaves in jazz? The lineage is wide, multifarious and deep, wrangling in such names as Young and Evans, Ammons and Stitt, Sims and Cohen, Clay and Newman, Anderson and Jordan, Freeman and Freeman, along with others too numerous to list. Like many of the previously mentioned pairings, Jaws and Griff shared an amicable rapport and took their partnership as joint leaders seriously. So much so that their quintet’s recordings divide fairly evenly between their two discographies. Davis’s surname sometimes leads the charge while Griffin has the honors on ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin: And the Great Danes

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For the better part of four decades, Northern Europe has been something of a second home to Johnny Griffin. Following the lead of his peers, the saxophonist immigrated to Paris in the early '60s and later moved to the Netherlands in the early '70s. The life of the expatriate jazz musician has been his preferred lot ever since. For these reasons and for the simple love of the music, this pairing with a Danish quartet makes perfect sense. Griff is one of the elder veterans of that one time jazz staple, the cutting contest, and has the scars to prove ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin, Steve Grossman: Johnny Griffin & Steve Grossman Quintet

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Even though Johnny Griffin has steadfastly chosen to remain in Europe since 1963, his recorded output remains steady and, as always, invigorating, thanks to Dreyfus Jazz. Fast on the heels of Griffin's Grammy-nominated collaboration with piano great Martial Solal, Griffin once again is paired with an interesting counterpart, this time fellow tenor saxman Steve Grossman. Even though he grew up and was educated in the United States, Grossman now is resident of Europe as well.Last year, Griffin journeyed from Holland to join Grossman in Paris for a blowing session of two aggressive saxophonists revealing their common hard bop ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Johnny Griffin/Steve Grossman: Griffin & Grossman Quintet

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The welcome return of the fire-breathing bebop tenor saxophonist is well, music to my ears. Ex-patriot saxophonists Johnny Griffin and Steve Grossman team up for an old fashioned blowing session. This date recorded for the French label, Dreyfus Records, calls to mind Griffin’s legendary recording date A Blowing Session with John Coltrane and Hank Mobley in 1957. Recorded in the days when musicians arrived in town looking for an after-hours cutting contest to prove themselves and develop their skills. Griffin, now 72, was known for his competitive playing working in the bands of Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, Lionel Hampton, Wes ...



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