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Johnny Griffin: Griff 'n' Bags

Douglas Payne By

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Well, not quite. Chicago tenor great Johnny ("Griff") Griffin is heard on five tunes and Milt ("Bags") Jackson, whose intention was to reunite with fellow MJQ founder Kenny Clarke for a Clarke-Boland Big Band project that never materialized, is heard on five different tunes.

Despite slightly inaccurate labeling and packaging that doesn't explain itself until you open it, Griff 'n' Bags is an excellent collection of four Francy Boland-Jimmy Woode-Kenny Clarke sessions recorded between 1967 and 1969. The 16 pieces enclosed here seem to have been recorded when all the members of the sensational, underrated C-BBB were unable to assemble in full.

The first three titles, from 1967 (Woode's "Gamal Sady'n'Em" and "Gyson's Bag" and Neal Hefti's "Lonely Girl"), focus the diverse and interesting rhythmic moxy on what made the C-BBB's engine run so swiftly and smoothly - the trio of Boland, Woode and Clarke. Three horns are added for sessions a year and a half later yielding three superb numbers with standouts including Boland's wondrously Latinesque "The Turk's Bolero," a feature for Sahib Shihab, and the swinging "Muvaffak's Pad" spotlighting the ever-amazing Boland's piano and the graceful trumpet of Idrees Sulieman. Bags's 1969 pieces are highlighted by his own typically-soulful "Blues For K" and his vocal (no vibes) on "I'm A Fool To Want You." Griffin, a charter C-BBB member, is brought forward on his 1968 pieces and swings hard and happily on five titles, and in tip-top form on the New Orleans drawl of "Foot Patting" and the Nat Adderley like "Deep Eight."

The Italian Rearward label is now releasing many of producer Gigi Campi's 1960s sessions in attractive packages with boxes, booklets and typically superb notes by Mike Hennessy. These are all worthwhile, often inspired productions well worth investigating. They're also a testament to the beauty and enduring appeal of European stalwarts like pianist, composer and arranger Francy Boland and American expatriates Sahib Shihab, Idrees Sulieman, Benny Bailey and Johnny Griffin. Despite the slightly misleading packaging here, Griff 'n' Bags is also excellent and highly recommended.

Songs:Gamal Sady'n'Em; Lonely Girl; Gyson's Bag; The Turk's Bolero; The Girl And The Turk; Muvaffak's Pad; Just Friends; I'm A Fool To Want You; Blues For K.; Like Someone In Love; Just You, Just Me; Foot Patting; Please Send Me Someone To Love; Deep Eight; The JAMF's Are Coming; Lady Heavy Bottom's Waltz.

Players:Idrees Sulieman: trumpet; Ake Persson: trombone; Benny Bailey: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Johnny Griffin: tenor sax; Sahib Shihab: baritone sax, flute; Francy Boland: piano; Jimmy Woode Jr: bass; Kenny Clarke, Kenny Clare: drums; Milt Jackson: vibes, vocals.

| Record Label: Rearward | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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