Once accurately billed as "the world's fastest saxophonist," Johnny Griffin (an influence tone-wise on Rahsaan Roland Kirk) has been one of the top bop-oriented tenors since the mid-'50s. He gained early experience playing with the bands of Lionel Hampton (1945-47) and Joe Morris (1947-50), and also jammed regularly with Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell. After serving in the Army (1951-1953), Griffin spent a few years in Chicago (recording his first full album for Argo) and then moved to New York in 1956. He held his own against fellow tenors John Coltrane and Hank Mobley on a classic Blue Note album, was with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in 1957, and proved to be perfect with the Thelonious Monk quartet in 1958, where he really ripped through the complex chord changes with ease. During 1960-1962, Griffin co-led a "tough tenor" group with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. He emigrated to Europe in 1963, and became a fixture on the Paris jazz scene both as a bandleader and a major soloist with the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland big band.
- by Scott Yanow
All Music Group