Thursday, December 17, 2009

Johnny GRIFFIN - Johnny Griffin Sextet 1958

Johnny GRIFFIN - Johnny Griffin Sextet 1958
Recorded at Reeves Sound Studios, New York, New York on February 25, 1958. Originally released on Riverside (264)
Digitally remastered by Phil De Lancie
(1994, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California)


Johnny Griffin was rightfully known for his speed and dexterity on the tenor sax, and his work on this 1958 sextet session is no exception. Griffin's full-bodied, bluesy tone and vigorous, lightning-fingered lines scintillate on each of the five tracks here. What makes this Riverside date particularly notable, however, is the instrumentation and quality of the personnel. The rhythm section of piano (Kenny Drew), bass (Wilbur Ware), and drums (Philly Joe Jones) is fronted by Griffin, Donald Byrd on trumpet, and Pepper Adams on baritone sax.

The triple-horn lineup gives the ensemble a heavy, solid sound that gestures toward big band on the more swinging cuts, while providing beautiful contrast and texture on down-tempo numbers. Among the program's highlights are a Griffin original ("Catharsis"), a brisk take on Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody'n You," and the lovely ballad "What's New?" There is plenty of stretching out from all involved, but with a tastefulness and sensitivity in the group chemistry that keeps the proceedings from veering into unstructured jams.
From CD Universe.
Johnny Griffin, once promoted as "the world's fastest saxophonist" and leader of the set "A Blowin' Session" with guest saxophonists Hank Mobley and John Coltrane, turns out a great performance on his Riverside debut "Johnny Griffin Sextet". The sextet in question includes the Griffin on tenor, Kenny Drew on piano, Wilbur Ware on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams and trumpeter Donald Byrd sit in as guests. Kicking off with drummer Wilbur Campbell's "Stix' Trix", the 3-horn front line is as tight as you could want. "What's New" starts off softly, with Griffin stating the theme and taking first solo honors. Byrd's trumpet gets the second solo, followed by Adams baritone (a nice solo but the sax sounds as if it's on the edge of squeaking). Kenny Drew plays a solo that sounds like cascading raindrops before Griffin comes back in to play briefly before taking an unaccompanied cadenza.

An almost martial beat from Philly Joe Jones starts off Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody 'N You"; Griffin joins for a brief duet before the rest of the rhythm section piles on for an almost-calypso rendition of the standard tune. Almost as quickly as they jumped in, the band drops out for an accapella bass solo from Wilbur Ware, then rejoins for a brightly upbeat piano solo. Again the band drops out, leaving Griffin to solo while Ware establishes the changes. A drum break from Philly Joe leads into a session of trading fours between the drum legend and Griffin. The performance then changes into an exaggerated bossa nova before finishing. There's a lot of music packed into the song's six-minute length. And you'll never notice that Adams and Byrd sit this one out.

Byrd and Adams return for a loping version of John Hines' "Johnny G.G." Griffin gets in some great blues riffs during his solo, backed by Basie-style licks from the other two horns. During Byrd's solo, Philly Joe briefly doubles the tempo while Ware keeps the previous tempo - then returns to normal (the same for Adams solo, too). After Ware's bass solo, the drums drop out and another bass & tenor duet takes place before the rest of the group jumps back in, swinging as hard and loud as a group twice its size.

Griffin's "Catharsis" gives everyone a chance to get their licks in before the recording ends. "Cathasis" is just an old fashioned blowing session - everyone gets to take a turn on this charging bop number. As has happened more than a few times on this recording, the band drops out for a tenor sax/bass duet. This just makes it that much more exciting when the rest of the band jumps back in. The Johnny Griffin Sextet, as recorded here, was a perfect match of ensemble players and soloists comparable only to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. A great bop recording.
By  Douglas T Martin.
Donald Byrd- (Trumpet)
Johnny Griffin- (Tenor Sax)
Pepper Adams- (Bariton Sax)
Kenny Drew- (Piano)
Wilbur Ware- (Bass)
Philly Joe Jones- (Drums)
01. Stix' Trix 7:41
02. What's New 7:50
03. Woody'n You 6:09
04. Johnny G.G. 9:42
05. Catharsis 9:56

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