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 Miller, Curtis Lundy and Kenny Washington. Pisces
is a satisfying 1962 session, released here for the first time, on which Griffin alternates playing ballads with his two-tenor teammate Eddie "Lockjaw Davis.
The Bush Dance album was one of Griffin's finest and is an important addition to his CD discography. The date shows off his robust tough tenor sound on a series of inventive contemporary arrangements that sets the session apart from the more standard fare on which he generally excels. Starting off with an extended tour de force version of "Night In Tunisia that begins with the leader's dark horn and bright voice chanting over Heath and Nash's AfroCuban percussion and segues into a funky honking tenor riff before attacking the classic bebop changes, the Gillespie classic signals a more modern view of the jazz tradition. The title Griffin composition is a sophisticated soulful take on the commercially oriented material that often found its way onto '80s jazz dates. "The Jamfs Are Coming is a traditional blues by Griffin dedicated to the many jive-ass mf's one encounters in the jazz world, while Buddy Johnson's "Since I Fell For You finds the group in a classic R&B groove with Griffin's fellow Chicagoan Freeman shining on guitar. The date ends with Bobby Hutcherson's swinging "Knucklebean , on which all the band's members get to show off their stuff.
The Call It Whachawanna session is Griffin at his best, fronting a tightly knit working quartet. Miller, Lundy and Washington had already worked together with Betty Carter and Bobby Watson before joining Griffin and display the kind of cohesion one would expect from an experienced, time-tested trio. The leader is clearly inspired by the impressive work of the young rhythm section, each playing with aplomb that belies their then slight years. The veteran quick thinking creativity is on full display here as he weaves his way through Monk's "I Mean You , Ram Ramirez' "Lover Man and his own compositions, the bluesy title track and a lilting "A Waltz With Sweetie .
Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw Davis
The title track of the Pisces disc is another pleasing Griffin waltz. The rest of the previously unreleased date features his fluid tenor on the ballads "Willow Weep For Me , "She's Funny That Way and "Sophisticated Lady , each one presented with an equally flawless alternate take. The refined trio of pianist Horace Parlan, bassist Buddy Catlett and drummer Art Taylor is also heard on alternating selections accompanying Griffin's partner Eddie "Lockjaw Davis on "Midnight Sun , "Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered , "Yesterdays and two takes of "What Is There To Say . Parlan performs the Davis selections on celeste, providing an additional interesting contrast between the tracks by these two master ballad interpreters.
Tracks: 1 A Night in Tunisia Gillespie, Paparelli 17:07, 2 Bush Dance Griffin 4:59, 4 Since I Fell for You Johnson 7:21, 5 Knucklebean Marshall 7:19, 6 I Mean You Monk 8:43, 7 Lover Man Davis, Ramirez, Sherman 11:35, 8 Call It Whachawana Griffin 6:34, 9 A Waltz With Sweetie Griffin 6:36
Personnel: George Freeman, Guitar; Johnny Griffin, Tenor Sax; Albert "Tootie" Heath, Drums; Sam Jones, Bass; Curtis Lundy, Bass; Mulgrew Miller, Piano; Kenneth Nash, Percussion, Conga; Cedar Walton, Piano; Kenny Washington, Drums
Tracks: 1 Pisces Griffin 4:13, 2 Midnight Sun Burke, Hampton, Mercer 4:36, 3 Willow Weep for Me Ronell 4:32, 4 Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered Hart, Rodgers 3:44, 5 What Is There to Say? Duke, Harburg 3:33, 6 She's Funny That Way Moret, Whiting 4:32, 7 Yesterdays Harbach, Kern 4:16, 8 Sophisticated Lady Ellington, Mills, Parish 4:09, 9 Willow Weep for Me [alternate take] Ronell 4:46, 10 She's Funny That Way [alternate take] Moret, Whiting 4:14, 11 Sophisticated Lady [alternate take] Ellington, Mills, Parish 4:06, 12 What Is There to Say? [alternate take] Duke, Harburg 3:31
Personnel: Buddy Catlett, Bass; Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Tenor Sax; Johnny Griffin, Tenor Sax; Horace Parlan, Piano; Art Taylor, drums