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Johnny Griffin

Since Johnny Griffin's precocious professional debut with Lionel Hampton in 1945, his best work has been guided by spontaneity. One of the fastest and least inhibited of tenor men, Griffin loves the challenges and excitement of the jam session. Back in 1963, despite the solid reputation he had established as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Thelonious Monk’s group (and as co-leader of a band with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis), Griffin felt forced to flee to Europe.

During the Sixties, Griffin was one of an elite corps of resident American jazzmen in Europe, a group that included Kenny Clarke, Arthur Taylor, Horace Parlan, Kenny Drew, and, of course, Dexter Gordon (“Dexter’s family to me,” he smiles). He had no trouble finding work there. He played in radio and television studio bands, was installed for long engagements in clubs such as the Blue Note in Paris, played in countless jazz festivals, and continued his recording career unabated. He did everything but return to the United States. And he missed it: “Europeans love jazz very much, but American audiences respond to the music in a really special way.”

Johnny Griffin’s triumphant homecoming in 1978, coming on the heels of Dexter’s, ended 15 years of exclusively expatriate life in Europe. The occasion was one of jazz’s happiest, most heartwarming events in memory. Griffin found himself playing to an entirely new generation of fans, while his older fans discovered the tenor saxophonist to be playing better than ever.

Johnny Griffin was born April 24, 1928 in Chicago. In his own words: “All I ever wanted to be was a jazz musician. My father had played a little cornet and my mother played piano and sang a little. We had a lot of 78 rpm records in the house. In the beginning I listened to Ben Webster and Johnny Hodges, Don Byas and Lester Young. Then one day my cousins were having a party and somebody put on a 78 of Jay McShann, with Walter Brown singing “Hootie Blues.” And then there was an alto solo that knocked me dead. Like, crash, what is that?! Is that Pres?’ No, it was an alto. It was Charlie Parker. I wore that solo out on that record.”

“I started playing clarinet when I was 13 and saxophone when I was 14. Before that I had studied piano and steel guitar. I took classes in all the clarinets, oboe, and English horn. The bass clarinet was almost as tall as me.”

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Album Review

Wes Montgomery: The Complete Full House Recordings

Read "The Complete Full House Recordings" reviewed by Mark Sullivan


Wes Montgomery's original Full House album (Riverside, 1962) comprised six tracks; the 1987 CD edition had nine tracks, with alternate takes plus the addition of “Born to be Blue"; the 2007 reissue was expanded to eleven tracks. This complete edition has fourteen tracks, including all of the previously released alternate takes as well as the completely unedited master take of the title tune, with Montgomery's original guitar solo restored. That restoration is the big news for completists but, for everyone ...

19
Album Review

Thelonious Monk Quartet: Live Five Spot 1958 Revisited

Read "Live Five Spot 1958 Revisited" reviewed by Chris May


What are the first two names that come to mind on reading the phrase 'Thelonious Monk's saxophonist'? Chances are they will be John Coltrane or Charlie Rouse. The runner-up could be Sonny Rollins and somewhere further down the field might be Johnny Griffin. Griffin deserves to move up the list. The hard blowing, express velocity, R&B-schooled tenor player starting gigging with Monk in 1948. In 1955, he was the Monk quartet's saxophonist during a one-week residency in ...

8
Album Review

Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers: Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk (Deluxe Edition)

Read "Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk (Deluxe Edition)" reviewed by Chris May


Rhino's new series of reissues of historic albums from the late 1950s/early 1960s hit the ground running in 2020 with John Coltrane's Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1960). Spring 2022 has already seen Charles Mingus' Trio (Jubilee, 1957) and Coltrane's My Favorite Things (Atlantic, 1961). Hot on their heels comes Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk (Alantic, 1958). Each reissue is a double disc. Disc one contains the original album. Disc two comprises outtakes, some previously ...

4
Album Review

Wes Montgomery: The NDR Hamburg Studio Recordings

Read "The NDR Hamburg Studio Recordings" reviewed by Chris May


Recorded in spring 1965, during Wes Montgomery's sole European tour, The NDR Hamburg Studio Recordings presents the guitarist as part of an all-star international octet assembled for a one-off appearance on German television station NDR. The programme was part of a series presenting musicians who did not regularly work together in informal “rehearsal" performances. Montgomery's tour, on which he appeared with both his own quartet and local rhythm sections, has been well documented on official and unofficial recordings. But this ...

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Radio & Podcasts

The Chicago Sound (1956 - 1961)

Read "The Chicago Sound (1956 - 1961)" reviewed by Russell Perry


Because it acted as a safe harbor for the New Orleans diaspora of the teens and twenties, Chicago played a key role in early jazz. By the 1950s, much of jazz was understood in the dialog between cool jazz and hard bop, aka West Coast and East Coast, with Los Angeles and New York playing inordinately important roles. But the Chicago scene was as vital as ever. In this hour, we will return to the “City with Broad Shoulders" and ...

Album Review

Johnny Griffin: At Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall

Read "At Onkel Pö's Carnegie Hall" reviewed by Stefano Merighi


Quando queste tracce vengono registrate ad Amburgo, nel 1975, il jazz è forse nel suo momento più critico, abbandonato da ampie fette di pubblico, sedotto o dalla più muscolare fusion o dal rock progressivo. A dispetto della nascita di decine di nuove formazioni e dell'incremento delle produzioni discografiche, specie negli Usa si era perso quel senso della comunità jazzistica che ne aveva garantito l'umanesimo. Sopravviveva nell'ambito della free music, con un pubblico però esiguo. In termini generalisti, si andava verso ...

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My Blue Note Obsession

Johnny Griffin: The Congregation – 1957

Read "Johnny Griffin: The Congregation – 1957" reviewed by Marc Davis


Well, this is a disappointment. Johnny Griffin is widely regarded as one of the fastest sax players in jazz history. His reputation began with his very first album, Blue Note's Introducing Johnny Griffin in 1956. He solidified his rep the next year with a frantic three-sax attack on A Blowin' Session with John Coltrane and Hank Mobley. So maybe it's not a huge surprise that Griffin wanted to try something different a few months later, in ...

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5

Recording

Storyville Records Presents 'Live In Valencia 92' From The Legendary Tenor Saxophonist, Johnny Griffin

Storyville Records Presents 'Live In Valencia 92' From The Legendary Tenor Saxophonist, Johnny Griffin

Source: Vivo Musique Internationale

The Little Giant live in Spain Johnny Griffin Live in Valencia 92 The legendary tenor saxophonist, Johnny Griffin’s electrifying performance in Valencia, Spain in 1992 is set to be immortalized on the upcoming release, Live in Valencia 92, on June 21, 2024 on Storyville Records. Accompanied by an all-star trio with French pianist Hervé Sellin, bassist Reggie Johnson and Doug Sides on drums, this recording, consisting of 6 tracks, is a chance to hear Johnny Griffin at his ...

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Music Industry

IN + OUT RECORDS announces new releases from Johnny Griffin, the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen, and Ratko Zjaca with John Patitucci, Steve Gadd and Randy Brecker

IN + OUT RECORDS announces new releases from Johnny Griffin, the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen, and Ratko Zjaca with John Patitucci, Steve Gadd and Randy Brecker

Source: Michael Ricci

IN + OUT RECORDS, one of Europe's most enterprising and acclaimed independent jazz labels, with a reputation as a producer of recordings of the highest musical and technical quality established through its twenty-plus years of releasing cutting edge music created by both American and European artists, announces its second release of new recordings to be distributed exclusively in the United States by the Allegro Media Group. Following up on its initial Allegro distributed release of recordings by Billy Cobham, Odean ...

169

Obituary

Johnny Griffin Memorial Tribute

Johnny Griffin Memorial Tribute

Source: Rifftides by Doug Ramsey

Readers in and around New York City may be interested in this announcement sent by Michael Weiss.

CELEBRATING JOHNNY GRIFFIN: A TRIBUTE IN WORDS AND MUSIC

Reminiscences from fellow musicians, family and friends.

Johnny Griffin's compositions performed by Johnny's longtime rhythm section (Michael Weiss, John Webber and Kenny Washington) with Eric Alexander. Additional performances by Jimmy Heath, Cedar Walton, Ray Drummond and Ben Riley.

SEPTEMBER 14, 2008, 7 p.m.

St. Peter's Church

619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street ...

207

Performance / Tour

Saxophonist Ray Blue Tribute to Johnny Griffin Tomorrow

Saxophonist Ray Blue Tribute to Johnny Griffin Tomorrow

Source: All About Jazz


192

Recording

CD: Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

CD: Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

Source: Rifftides by Doug Ramsey

Johnny Griffin & Lockjaw Davis, Live in Copenhagen (Storyville). The hard-charging tenor saxophonists worked in tandem for twenty-six years. This 1984 club date at the Montmarte club two years before Davis's death is typical of the unremitting swing and visceral excitement of their live appearances. The rhythm section is pianist Harry Pickens, bassist Curtis Lundy and drummer Kenny Washington, in his mid-twenties and formidable. Griffin's blues “Call It Whatcha Wanna" is a highlight in a set that is itself a ...

153

Obituary

Michael Weiss Remembers Johnny Griffin

Michael Weiss Remembers Johnny Griffin

Source: Rifftides by Doug Ramsey

Long before he won the Thelonious Monk Institute Composers Competition in 2000, Michael Weiss established himself as a pianist. Fresh out of Dallas in his early twenties, he was soon working with Jon Hendricks, Junior Cook, Charles McPherson and Lou Donaldson, among others. He went on to play with Art Farmer, Clifford Jordan, Frank Wess, the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and the Mingus Epitaph Orchestra. As a leader, he had groups that included Cook, McPherson, Tom Harrell, Lew Tabackin and a ...

164

Obituary

The Little Giant Steps On: Johnny Griffin, 1928-2008

The Little Giant Steps On: Johnny Griffin, 1928-2008

Source: All About Jazz

News came this Friday morning via several sources that tenor saxophonist and hardbop great Johnny Griffin has passed away from a heart attack at the age of 80. Ben Ratliff has an obituary online for the New York Times, and Doug Ramsey has posted a tribute that includes a link to a retrospective he wrote earlier this year over at Rifftides. Griffin, nicknamed “the Little Giant" because he was five feet five but produced a contrasting sound of immense strength ...

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Obituary

Johnny Griffin RIP

Johnny Griffin RIP

Source: All About Jazz

Johnny Griffin, a tenor saxophonist whose technical command set standards for his instrument and who refused to compromise his art, died today at his home in the village of Mauprevoir in France. From Ben Ratliff's obituary of Griffin in today's New York Times:

His height -- around five feet five -- earned him the nickname “The Little Giant"; his speed in bebop improvising marked him as “The Fastest Gun in the West"; a group he led with Eddie ...

166

Obituary

Saxophonist Johnny Griffin Dies at 80

Saxophonist Johnny Griffin Dies at 80

Source: Michael Ricci

Johnny Griffin, a jazz tenor-saxophonist from Chicago whose speed, control, and harmonic acuity made him one of the most talented musicians of his generation, and who abandoned his hopes for an American career when he moved to Europe in 1963, died Friday at his home in Availles-Limouzine, a village in France. He was 80 and had lived in Availles-Limouzine for 24 years. His death was announced to Agence France-Presse by his wife, who did not give a cause. He played ...

144

Obituary

Johnny Griffin Dies a 80

Johnny Griffin Dies a 80

Source: All About Jazz

Johnny Griffin, Jazzman Who Played With Coltrane, Monk, Dies By Mark Schoifet July 25 (Bloomberg) -- Johnny Griffin, the jazz musician who was once billed as the “world's fastest saxophonist" and played alongside Thelonious Monk, Lionel Hampton and John Coltrane, has died. He was 80. Griffin died today at his home in the village of Mauprevior, in southwest France, said his agent, Helene Manfredi. The cause wasn't disclosed. He had been scheduled to perform tonight. Nicknamed the “Little Giant," Griffin ...

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Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Live in Valencia 92

Storyville Records
2024

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The Complete Full...

Craft Recordings
2023

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The NDR Hamburg...

Jazzline Classics
2021

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At Onkel Pö's...

Jazzline Records
2017

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