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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The Best Of Johnny Griffin

Riverside 0888072313323




1. Cherokee
2. Woody 'n You
3. Rhythm-a-ning
4. 63rd Street Theme
5. Tickle Toe
6. Wade in the Water
7. Straight, No Chaser
8. Full House
9. Autumn Leaves

Johnny Griffin - Tenor sax
Kenny Drew - Piano (tracks 1, 2)
Wilbur Ware - Bass (tracks 1, 2)
Philly Joe Jones - Drums (tracks 1, 2)
Thelonious Monk - Piano (track 3)
Ahmed Abdul-Malik - Bass (track 3)
Roy Haynes - Drums (track 3)
Blue Mitchell - Trumpet (track 4)
Julian Priester - Trombone (tracks 4, 6)
Wynton Kelly - Piano (tracks 4, 8)
Sam Jones - Bass (track 4)
Albert "Tootie" Heath - Drums (track 4)
Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - Tenor sax (tracks 5, 7)
Junior Mance - Piano (tracks 5, 7)
Larry Gales - Bass (tracks 5, 7)
Ben Riley - Drums (tracks 5, 7)
Clark Terry, Bob Bryant - Trumpets (track 6)
Matthew Gee - Trombone (track 6)
Pat Patrick - Alto sax (track 6)
Edwin Williams - Tenor sax (track 6)
Charlie Davis - Baritone sax (track 6)
Harold Mabern - Piano (track 6)
Bob Cranshaw - Bass (track 6)
Charlie Persip - Drums (track 6)
Wes Montgomery - Guitar (track 8)
Paul Chambers - Bass (track 8)
Jimmy Cobb - Drums (track 8)
Ronnie Mathews - Piano (track 9)
Ray Drummond - Bass (track 9)
Keith Copeland - Drums (track 9)


Griffin, the ĎLittle Giantí, was never merely a virtuosic speed merchant. He married instead a fearsome technical prowess with a raunchier down home element that ensured that his music making never became rabble rousing of aridly versatile. This ĎBest Ofí selection shows the how and the why of it.

Itís surely permissible to drive through that warhorse Cherokee as Griffin does, complete with his throwaway quotes, being driven on by a cooking rhythm section anchored by Philly Joe Jones. Pianist Kenny Drew steers a Scylla and Charybdis course between bop and bluesy lines, much as Griffin does in fact. Woody 'n You showcases the bandís all-round competence: Jonesís percussive variety is a tonic, and thereís a fine dialogue between Griffin and Wilbur Ware, the rock solid bassist. Rhythm-a-ning sees a meeting with Monk, whose first live album this was. Itís a record remarkable for the spaces Monk grants his soloist; Monk effectively converts his quartet to a temporary trio. Griffinís weakness for pat quotes is evident but not too distracting.

63rd Street Theme is a solid blues graced by Blue Mitchell amongst others. The tension ratchets and a righteous groove is cooking by the end, despite some silly Gershwin quotes in the solo by Griffin. The first pairing of the two tenor line-up of Griffin and Lockjaw Davis comes in the 1960 Tickle Toe. Junior Mance is the marvellous pianist and his lexicon of traditions is second to none. His refined touch is a delight as well, and he manages to steal the honours from the front line team without ever seeking to do so. Jaws attacks raucously and Griff comes on with his I Found A New Baby quotations, just in case you werenít sure.

The famous Gospel shouter Wade in the Water had to be here, and it does act as a bridge into a ferocious Straight, No Chaser, in which the two tenors swap phrases with daemonic commitment. He was working with Miles Davisís rhythm section when he cut Full House: Wes Montgomery was the guitar interloper. For the last track we leap forward to 1978. He is as fast and fluent as ever.

This is a very decent selection of Griffinís work. He kept fast company, which the disc also reflects.

Jonathan Woolf


See also an additional review by Tony Augarde.


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