Johnny Griffin: And the Great Danes

Derek Taylor By

Sign in to view read count
Johnny Griffin: And the Great Danes 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 it. His quoted comments in the disc’s notes surprisingly reveal his distaste for the once-popular custom. Sharing the frontline with Thilo, these combative memories are relegated to the past and the pair seeks instead to achieve a relationship akin to the one Griff shared with his longtime friend and band mate Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Any sparring is done with good humor and in support the momentum of the pieces, all of which are longstanding tried and true blowing vehicles. Griff may rank as the resident living legend, but Thilo largely holds his own.

“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.

Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Stunt Records/Sundance Music | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Peace" CD/LP/Track Review Peace
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 18, 2017
Read "EARS" CD/LP/Track Review EARS
by Rob Caldwell
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "Checking Out" CD/LP/Track Review Checking Out
by Budd Kopman
Published: July 19, 2016
Read "Triple Exposure" CD/LP/Track Review Triple Exposure
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: November 30, 2016
Read "Volume 1" CD/LP/Track Review Volume 1
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: November 19, 2016
Read "Untitled" CD/LP/Track Review Untitled
by Jack Bowers
Published: October 13, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!