Tough Tenor Favorites: The JOHNNY GRIFFIN and
EDDIE “LOCKJAW” DAVIS Quintet
Johnny Griffin (ts) Eddie Davis (ts) Horace Silver (p) Buddy Catlett (b) Ben Riley (drs)
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City;
Bahia (5:53) (Ary Barrosa)
Blue Lou (4:41) (Sampson – Mills)
How Am I To Know (4:54) (king – Parker)
Ow! (4:20) (Dizzy Gillespie)
I Wished On The Moon (6:39) (Rainger – Parker)
Tin Tin Deo (5:42) (Chano Pozo)
From This Moment On (6:02) (Cole Porter)
In a way, the description “Tough Tenors” tell you most of the story. The only necessary word of warning is to point out that “tough,” as used here, doesn’t have to mean hardboiled or aggressive – although that is certainly one of the ways this unique two-man team can come at you. Nowadays, the principal jazz meaning of “tough” is as tough competition (for other musicians), hard-to-beat, top-grade, pretty much the same as the slang term “boss” – a word that also gets applied to tenor players, among others. In short, the combination of JOHNNY GRIFFIN and EDDIE DAVIS is a guarantee of some of the best, most swinging and most exciting jazz available.
This guarantee has been in effect ever since May of 1960, when Griff and Lock made a spontaneous, almost off-hand – but long-lasting – decision to team up. Since then, audiences from New York’s Birdland to San Francisco’s Jazz Workshop (to single out two hip outposts at random) have been eagerly receiving their message – which, in effect, is no message at all except that music can create a whole lot of joy and good feeling. There are times when (especially if you keep up with your reading of the latest jazz-critic essays) such an approach may seem a little old-fashioned. But if the booting, happy entertainment value of the tough-tenors music rally is old-fashioned, there are a lot of us who are willing to be that way – who might even go back to high-button shoes, crinoline skirts and gaslight, if you insist!
Part of the fascination of this tea is undoubtedly due to the fact that, although they collaborate so effectively, their are distinct and easily recognizable differences in style and sound. (No chart of solo sequences is rally needed to tell Jaws’ full, “bottom” sound from the harder, higher Griffin drive. But if you care for a clue, on all except the last tack here they follow their usual bandstand habit of having Davis blow first.) Eddie is a proud follower of the Coleman Hawkins school, with much big band (notable Count Basie) in his background; Johnny, while his playing is also full of “roots,” has in the past been featured with such as Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey.
n some past records they have leaned towards use of an overall theme: “Lookin’ at Monk” is entirely made up their versions of numbers written by Thelonious; while “Blues Up and Down,” as you might guess, is entirely devoted to the blues. Here the connecting link is that these seven numbers are culled from those that the group’s fans keep asking to hear. Thus these are all selections that they know thoroughly and tunes on which they have proven their ability to get results. This promises much, and the team proceeds to deliver the goods as promised.
The two tenors’ most familiar ensemble approach, a unison style, is of course much in evidence here. Note, for examples, their joint bending of the melody line of the Billie Holiday-associated How Am I To Know; and the way they run a perfect dead heart at a blazing pace on the Swing Era favorite, Blue Lou – which also serves to demonstrate the wondrous Davis-Griffin agility in swapping “fours” and “eights.”
But there are other patterns employed, too: such as Johnny playing the melody above Eddie’s background on Bahia; or their interweaving on the album’s other Latin number, Tin Tin Deo. The latter is one of two items here associated with Dizzy Gillespie; the other being Dizzy’s own Ow!, on which there is a notably unique fusing of ensemble and solo used as a dramatic introduction to each tenor chorus. And while identifying tunes, let’s not neglect their second tribute to a Lady much admired by both men, I Wish On The Moon. (Griffin, incidentally, has devoted a full album to music liked with miss Holiday – “White Gardenia,” a big-band effort on Riverside.) Finally, there is From This Moment On, another speeder, which serves to emphasize the strong contribution of drummer Ben Riley.
Other Jazzland albums by the GRIFFIN-DAVIS Quintet include –
Tough Tenors (JLP 31; Stereo 931)
Lookin’ at Monk (JLP39; Stereo 939)
Griff & Lock (JLP 42; Stereo 942)
Blues Up and Down (JLP 60; Stereo 960)
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER (Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios)
Album design: KEN DERDOFF
Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO
This recording is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 976) and Monaural (JLP 76) form.
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York