JOHNNY GRIFFIN: DO NOTHING TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME
JOHNNY GRIFFIN QUARTET
Johnny Griffin (ts) Buddy Montgomery (vib, p) Monk Montgomery (b) Art Taylor (drs)
live at “Tsubo” Club, Barclay, CA; June 26, 1962
That’s All (6:24)
Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me f5:37)
The Midnight Sun Will Never Set (4:59)
Slow Burn (8:14)
Wonder Why (5:23)
Heads up (5:26)
Recently, releases from tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin lave begun to be increasingly more impressive. The reasons, easier to hear than to define, are apparent on this latest Griffin Album, which is the most successful and consistently interesting of his that I have heard.
Not that he has changed his style; he hasn’t . as a fascinating interview with him in the June, 1963 issue of Jazz indicated, Griffin is one of the few players not stylistically overhauled during a stay with Thelonious Monk, and is somewhat proud of the fact. But the interview was held by a Frenchman, and since the French tend to take our musicians as seriously as we take their critics, Griffin was given more of a chance to expound on his theories than usual. “People should try to feel jazz more,” he said, speaking of those who “tried to listen to jazz in a too analytical state of mind instead of with the heart.” He also deplored “the new thing,” saying, “Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I have heard too much good music – with beautiful tone, good intonation …too much. I guess jazz is very personal.” And most significant, n terms of this album, Griffin said, “Nothing is happening in the States. I can’t go out and listen to jazz anymore. Well, except Dizzy on a good night.”
I would not necessarily agree with Griffin’s assessment of the scene, but his singling out of Gillespie for praise has more than casual relevance. In recent years, Gillespie has become a gifted editor. If he chooses to play only three or four notes on a given measure, we know that those few notes have been selected as most telling from among the torrent he might have played, for we have heard him do it. Those few notes leave a powerful impression of strength in reserve, as of a great miler laying back, an effect which, to use an example among vocalists, Peggy Lee has made into coy cliché.
Similarly, it is no longer necessary for Griffin to prove how many notes he can play, or how fast. It is possible that he did not feel it proper to exercise this sort of blue-pencil privilege on himself during his partnership with Eddie Davis, for the power of that group lay in competition between the two tenors, but on his own he, too has developed into an excellent self-editor.
The most striking instance of the quality I am attempting to pinpoint occurs in Griffin’s light and lyrical solo on Quincy Jones’ The Midnight Sun Will Never Set. It is the kind of solo that one would ordinarily associate more with Stan Getz than with Griffin – that delicate, nostalgic filigree – but there is also an easeful suggestion of the kind of fullness and power that Getz seldom achieves. And it is achieved with admirable economy. Perhaps Griffin did learn from Monk, after all – what not to play.
To say that an album does not attempt to prove anything is actually a rather sneaky cliché, by use of which the annotator or reviewer attempts to condemn other kinds of music by implication. Despite Griffin’s unusually outspoken remarks in France, it would be unfair to him to emphasize such statements here, for o the shole Johnny tries to live in a sort of playful, mocking peace with his fellows, and has survived in a ruthless business with a notable lack of enemies. Nevertheless, his pretensions of this album have been limited to the selection of good tunes from diverse sources, the writing o a few original lines, the choosing of good, compatible musicians and a congenial place to record, and playing as well as he can.
The compatible place to record was Tsubo, a California coffee house which had served just the night before as the site for a Wes Montgomery album, Full House (Riverside 434), on which Griffin was featured. the audience and Wes are missing from the present effort, but in their place are the rest of the Montgomery brothers: vibraphonist and pianist Buddy, and bassist Monk. Completing the contingent is one of the most ubiquitous of the post-bop recording drummer Arthur Taylor.
Two of the numbers are written by Griffin: Heads Up (with its simultaneous suggestion of Autumn Leaves and Dear Old Stockholm) and a blues line, Slow Burn, which is one of Buddy’s two vibes tracks (the other being Midnight Sun). The four standards, each of which contains strong potential for improvisation, come from a wide variety of sources. The title track, Do Nothing ‘Til Hear From Me, is, of course from Ellington. Quincy Jones’ Midnight Sun as written for a Scandinavian recording band. That’s All is by Bob Haynes, brother of vocalist Dick. Wonder Why is from a Jane Powell musical, a souvenir of the days when she and Hose Iturbi were elevating the masses for M-G-M.
All of these varied elements have gone into making a successful album. But the catalyst is Johnny Griffin. It is gratifying that by seeming to play less, the world’s fastest tenor player has finally shown how much consummate taste and musicianship he really has.
Other JOHNNY GRIFFIN Riverside albums include –
Grab This! (437; stereo 9437)
The Kerry Dancers (420; stereo 9429)
White Gardenia – a tribute to Billie Holiday (387; stereo 937)
Change of Pace (368; stereo 9368)
The Big Soul-Band (331; stereo 1179)
NOTE: all 6 titles also on WWLJ-7032, VICJ-60697, VICJ-60697CD
RM(S9)-462 “Do Nothing till You Hear from Me” Produced by Orrin Keepnews; recording Engineer: Wally Heider
Notes written by Joe Goldberg. Cover design by Ken Deardoff; back-liner photo; no information.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, N. Y.