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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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JOHNNY GRIFFIN/RICHIE COLE

From Village Vanguard

Storyville Films 26075

 

 

 


 
Johnny Griffin Quartet

1. Blues for Gonzi
2. A Monk's Dream
3. 56 and Closing
Richie Cole Group

4. Hi Fly
5. I Can't Get Started
6. Punishment Blues
7. Yardbird Suite
8. Red Top
Johnny Griffin - Tenor sax (tracks 1-3)
Ronnie Matthews - Piano (tracks 1-3)
Ray Drummond - Bass (tracks 1-3)
Kenny Washington - Drums (tracks 1-3)
Richie Cole - Alto sax (tracks 4-8)
Bruce Forman - Guitar (tracks 4-8)
Bobby Enriquez - Piano (tracks 4-8)
Marshall Hawkins - Bass (tracks 4-8)
Scott Morris - Drums (tracks 4-8)
 
 

This interesting DVD features two contrasting saxophonists, although not both tenor-saxists (as the sleeve would have you believe). They were recorded in 1981 at the Village Vanguard club in New York for the TV series The Jazz Life, produced by Ben Sidran.

Tenor-saxist Johnny Griffin is well-known as a fiery player and, as soon as he appears on this DVD, he is cooking with gas, playing a hot blues with a thousand notes per minute and swinging without let-up. The man's stamina seems phenomenal. Ronnie Matthews' piano solo is unaccompanied to start with and mainly composed of chords, although he develops later into single lines. Griffin returns to interact with drummer Kenny Washington, with the saxist taking four bars to Kenny's eight - all very frenetic. The title - Blues for Gonzi - is explained by Griffin as a dedication to vocalist Babs Gonzales.

A Monk's Dream (like the two other tracks) is a Griffin original, and the piano introduction clearly refers to Thelonious Monk. When Johnny states the melody, it is very much in Monk's up-and-down style (up, down and sideways). The sax and piano solos have some of Monk's waywardness. The final 56 and Closing is a lively, bluesy tune taken at a racing tempo. Johnny Griffin appears to play without stopping to take breath and the group is still in full flow when the film is faded out for the credits.

Filmed in the semi-darkness of a nightclub, the picture sometimes makes details hard to distinguish. But the group's dynamism comes across undiluted, and Ray Drummond's well-amplified double bass can be clearly heard, anchoring the band firmly.

After such frantic activity, you might think that altoist Richie Cole would be an anti-climax, but he has plenty of exciting moments as well as giving some restrained performances. His group opens with a samba featuring solos from the clipped staccato guitar of Bruce Forman and the Latin-flavoured piano of Bobby Enriquez. Bobby is a very percussive pianist who often uses his fists and elbows. In fact he tends to steal the show.

Richie Cole is the featured soloist in a lyrical interpretation of I Can't Get Started. In complete contrast, Punishment Blues is a sleazy number which keeps reverting to the Dragnet theme to underline its inspiration from the criminal element. Richie's alto sax screams and screeches dramatically. Charlie Parker's Yardbird Suite is more straightforward bebop, with a scintillating piano solo that again is packed with adrenalin.

The short closing Red Top fades out to accommodate the closing titles, which include the unbelievable credit "Directed by Parker Y. Bird". For an hour of exhilarating jazz, this DVD is worth buying not only for saxophone enthusiasts but for anyone who wants jazz that is simultaneously vibrant and thoughtful.

Tony Augarde


 


 

 

 

 



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