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



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JOHNNY GRIFFIN

Live at Ronnie Scott's

In and Out IOR CD 77095-2

 

 


 
1. Lester Leaps In
2. When We Were One
3. The Blues Walk
4. Mentor
5. How Deep is the Ocean?
6. The JAMES Are Coming
7. Hot Sake
 
 
Johnny Griffin - Tenor sax
Roy Hargrove - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Reggie Johnson - Bass
Billy Cobham - Drums
James Pearson - Piano (track 1)
David Newton - Piano (tracks 2-4, 6, 7)
Paul Kuhn - Piano, vocals (track 5)

 

This was not intended to be Johnny Griffin's last record date but it may turn out that way. Having recently celebrated his 80th birthday, Johnny appeared at the Ronnie Scott club in London in May last year but he sadly died a couple of months later. His dexterity on the tenor sax had earned him such nicknames like "The Little Giant" (he was about five-and-a-half feet tall) and "The Fastest Gun in the West" - although on this session he couldn't quite manage to keep up with such fast tempos as that for the opening Lester Leaps In. However, he opens the tune unaccompanied, with the familiar Griffin fire still blazing. Pianist James Pearson flies the flag for Britain, and Billy Cobham contributes a scintillating drum solo.

Roy Hargrove's smooth tone on the flugelhorn is heard to advantage on When We Were One, where the slower tempo allows Griffin to play with tender eloquence, and David Newton plays some intriguing tricks at the top of the piano. Newton is also outstanding in his Debussyesque solo on Mentor. The Blues Walk allows Griffin to display his lifelong allegiance to the blues.

Veteran German pianist Paul Kuhn guests on How Deep is the Ocean? with just the bass and drums as accompaniment. He also sings, but with only an approximation of the melody.

The album ends with two Griffin originals. The JAMES Are Coming is a loping blues with virile trumpet from Roy Hargrove, classy piano  by David Newton, relaxed tenor sax from Griffin, and a good bass solo from Reggie Johnson, who is omitted from the personnel listing on the back sleeve. Hot Sake is a storming piece (based on the chords of What is This Thing Called Love?) on which Johnny, Roy and David really go to town.

This CD certainly doesn't show Johnny Griffin at his best but it captures him clearly enjoying himself in a live setting, where he was often happiest, and it makes a fitting, if poignant, farewell to a great jazzman.

 
Tony Augarde



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