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From Johnny Griffin With Love

Johnny Griffin

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Album Review

This four-disc set features three complete live CDs featuring the late tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin plus a DVD with a 1981 set at the Village Vanguard, including all of the music from In Copenhagen, Tough Tenors Back Again!, and Catharsis! The first disc contains excerpts from three different engagements, all from 1964 with pianist Kenny Drew, the then-young bassist Niels Pedersen (who only turned 18 that very year), and drummer Art Taylor. The audio quality is not as good as the later sessions, as the drums are a bit more prominent than the piano, but sparks fly throughout each selection, highlighted by the sizzling “A Night in Tunisia." Disc two was one of nine record dates by Griffin with fellow tenor saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, though sadly, it was to be their last recorded get-together prior to the latter's death in 1986. It's hard to beat the lively exchanges with the uptempo blues battle “Blues Up and Down," originated by Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt; they are egged on by a tremendous rhythm section consisting of Chicago pianist Harry Pickens, bassist Curtis Lundy, and the very much in demand drummer Kenny Washington. The fire continues in the romp through “Lester Leaps In," while Griffin's sassy blues “Call It What You Wanna" also merits praise. Disc three consists of a 1989 set with a local rhythm section in Copenhagen, anchored by the veteran expatriate American pianist Kenny Drew. Griffin's sense of humor is blended into his delicious bop chops in his breezy setting of “Just Friends," while the brisk, likely improvised “Skulefter Blues" showcases Drew and bassist Jens Melgaard along with the leader. The tenor saxophonist was a master of ballads, as displayed in his lush take of the gorgeous Billy Strayhorn masterpiece “Isfahan," taken at a very deliberate tempo. The DVD reprises the music from Griffin's VHS Jazz Life, though instead of pairing it with a separate set by Richie Cole on an earlier DVD reissue, two valuable tracks by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis from a 1985 club date in Copenhagen take are substituted. The tenorist's rapid-fire attack dominates his challenging “Blues for Gonz," with a series of hilarious quotes in his trading of fours with drummer Ed Thigpen. In his performance, Davis tackles extended treatments of “'S Wonderful" and “Shiny Stockings," with a gruffer sound that still swings like mad.

Biography

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...
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