Johnny Griffin Quartet - Live at Jazzhus Montmartre

Total Length: 51:39

Old Folks - 11.59 
Wee - 5.45 
Leave Me Alone Blues - 1.08 
Rhythm-A-Ning - 5.42 
Blues for Harvey - 12.38 
Wee (Theme) - 2.17 

Johnny Griffin, known as the “Little Giant,” was a formidable tenor saxophonist regardless of the setting. The Chicago native was known for his big tone and rapid-fire runs on his instrument, while remaining at a creative peak throughout his improvisations rather than resorting to mere honking and showboating. He worked with Lionel Hampton’s big band early in his career and briefly spent time with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Thelonious Monk’s quartet. A Blowing Session, Griffin’s recording debut as a leader, included both John Coltrane and Hank Mobley, showing that he was unafraid of competition on his horn. His series of record dates with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis proved to be one of the great pairings of tenor saxophonists in the history of jazz. But Griffin is best remembered for his records as a leader. Moving to Europe for good in 1962 to join the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Band, Griffin worked and recorded often, occasionally returning to the U.S. for brief engagements and record dates. He died in France in 2008, not long after his eightieth birthday. These sessions come from two nights at the Montmartre Jazzhuis in Copenhagen, where Griffin frequently played. Accompanying him are fellow American expatriates Kenny Drew on piano and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath, along with the young Danish virtuoso bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. Griffin’s ballad mastery is apparent in his loping, humorous setting of the chestnut “Old Folks.” The set includes a pair of up tempo romps, including Monk’s “Rhythm-a-Ning” (one of many reworkings of the changes to the Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm”) and Denzil Best’s “Wee.” “Blues For Harvey” starts out in a subdued manner, then gradually evolves into an expressive hard bop vehicle that is full of sudden twists, adding a delicious bluesy solo by Drew. Even better is Griffin’s improvised “Leave Me Alone Blues,” which features the leader playing unaccompanied for several choruses before the rhythm section rejoins him to wrap the set in blazing style, with a brief recap of “Wee” added as a coda.

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