Sunday, July 27, 2008

Johnny Griffin (1928-2008)

I interrupt our celebration of African music with sad news. Tenor-sax virtuoso Johnny Griffin – the “Little Giant,” whose career reached back to the dawn of bebop – died Friday at his home in France.

At 80 years old, Mr. Griffin was still performing. He played a concert on the French Riviera last Monday... and was scheduled for shows this weekend. Griffin’s new CD, “Smokin’ Sax,” was released last week in Europe.

In Griffin’s honor, I’m streaming one of his mid-career highlights on my Vox blog. It’s an exuberant reading of “Autumn Leaves” from his 1978 album “Return of the Griffin” (recorded upon his return to America after 15 years in Europe).

Click here to hear it.

You can read the New York Times obituary here. The Chicago Tribune (in Griffin’s home town) eulogizes him here. The London Telegraph’s obit is here.

Last November, I posted jazz writer Andy Gilbert’s 1999 interview with Johnny Griffin. If you missed it then, you can read it now.

For we have indeed lost a giant.

2 comments:

Des said...

THANKS....for all the links. I have over 1,000 jazz albums...Tough Tenors is in my Top Twenty. I second him only to Coltrane, whom I've heard picked up a few tips from Griffin. Everyone else is a peer at best. I loved the Tough Tenors format better than their next effort....because of the thing they both decried. The Battle. I don't care what they both said publicly....that album was one of the best, "Oh Yeah...Watch This!"
ever committed to vinyl.

The Pop View said...

Oh My God. I just saw him play at Ronnie Scott's in London. His band included Roy Hargrove & Billy Cobham and it was a great show.