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Griff'n' Bags

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Album Review

The cover implies that Johnny Griffin is the leader on this two-disc compilation of four different bands of various sizes that include members of the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band. He only seems to be present on just four of the 16 songs, all of which come from an old Vogue LP called Lady Heavy Bottom's Waltz from 1968 that was led by the tenor saxophonist. The three tracks with a trio consisting of Boland, Clarke, and bassist Jimmy Woode omit Griffin entirely, two of which are Woode's compositions and prominently featuring him. Milt Jackson joins flutist Sahib Shihab and the rhythm section for five selections, including a rare opportunity to hear Jackson sing ("I'm a Fool to Want You"), though it is his phenomenal vibes in his "Blues for K" and the standard "Like Someone in Love" that are the highlights of this 1969 session. Three other songs, all written by Boland, include the basic rhythm section, plus Shihab (heard on both baritone sax and flute), trombonist Ake Persson, and trumpeter Idrees Sulieman, though none of these works is particularly memorable. The remastered sound is excellent through all four studio sessions. Obviously, it would have made a lot more sense to package this as an anthology by Kenny Clarke and Francy Boland than by Johnny Griffin, but perhaps the label was either careless or thought this compilation would sell better under Griffin's name. Unfortunately, this misleading packaging is nothing new in the record business.

Customer Reviews

Griffin is only on five tunes.

"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."


Born: April 24, 1928 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the all-time great tenor saxophonists, Johnny Griffin will go down in the annals of jazz as a performer easily able to negotiate the tricky harmonic changes and swift tempos of modern music. He'll also be remembered as a player who could masterfully interpret tender ballads, rivaling Ben Webster in that regard. Born John Arnold Griffin III in Chicago, Illinois, on April 24, 1928, he resided on the South Side of the Second City with his mother, who was a singer, and father, who played cornet....
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