Tough Tenors: JOHNNY GRIFFIN and EDDIE “LOCKJAW” DAVIS Quintet
Johnny Griffin (ts) Eddie Davis (ts) Junior Mance (p) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (drs)
Recorded in New York City; November 4 & 19, 1960
Tickle Toe (5:25) (Lester Young)
Save Your Love for Me (7:04) (Buddy Johnson)
Twins (6:29) (Griffin-Davis)
Funky Fluke (9:11) (Benny Green)
Imagination (4:25) (Burke-Van Heusen)
Soft Winds (7:14) (Benny Goodman)
“This is booting, belting jazz in the old tradition, though the group is essentially a modern one. Its two leaders … blend their horns beautifully, producing big, gutsy sound that is all virility and a yard wide. If you are afflicted with fears that jazz is about to wander up some intellectual alley to be lost forever in the more arid areas of classical music, a good, hard listen to the group that saxophonists Davis and Griffin are now fronting should soothe them … This is five men swinging up a storm, and jazz is fortunate that such men exist to feed it,”
Gene Lees, in Down Beat
About This NEW Jazzland Recording –
One night in May of 1960, two of the most exciting, booting tenor men of this or just about any other era got together over a drink at Birdland and that was the beginning of the JOHNNY GRIFFIN-EDDIE “LOCKJAW” DAVIS Quintet, which (as Down Beat’s editor puts it in the review quoted n the cover) has been “swinging up a storm” ever since.
Griffin and Davis were brought together by their realization that they are unusually compatible musicians. Both have always considered a truly swinging beat the most important asset, both are extremely full-toned and agile on tenor, and both have throughout their careers kept up with the times without losing any of those basics of beat and sound. Individually they are well-established on the jazz scene. Griffin, regarded as one of today’s top improvisers, was born in Chicago in 1928. He has been featured with such stars as Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk and has led his own groups in clubs and on records. “Lockjaw,” New York born and seven years the older, began his career in the early ‘40s, and has always retained a swing feeling (his own favorites include Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster). Davis amassed considerable big-band experience, most notably with Count Basie in the early ‘50s, and was also most successfully teamed with organist Shirley Scott in the years just before his merger with Griffin.
Together, the two make the tough, rousing, good-time spirit of jazz come alive within a thoroughly modern context, as they explore all facets of the two-tenor scene – unison, solo, swapping and what-have-you. They are mostly ably assisted by the very earthy piano of Junior Mance (don’t miss his background comments on Soft Winds), by bassist Larry Gales (a cousin and student of George Duvivier), and by Ben Riley, whom Gene Lees has rightly called “a most impressive young drummer.”
The quintet’s repertoire is a happy mixture that includes an emphasis on neglected material from the Swing Era. “We are trying to bring back older tunes with a different flavor,” Lockjaw points out, “tunes with more substance and feeling to them, that get in that good groove. Many composers today tend to get too cold and mathematical. We don’t want that ‘space music’; we don’t want to get too far away from the public.”
His statement is quite clearly demonstrated right at the start by the warm and lively version of a 1940 Basie band number, Lester Young’s Tickle Toe. The first solo is by “Jaws” (to simplify the identification problem, note that Eddie blows first on al numbers except Imagination, a ballad turned over completely to Johnny). Towards the close of Tickle Toe comes the first of several occasions on which the tenors swap fours, and (to quote Lees once again) “it is a kick to hear the one repeating complex figures of the other virtually verbatim.”
Two easy-swinging selections, Save Your Love for Me and the Benny Goodman Sextet specially, Soft Winds, are also in the Griffin-Davis “older tunes with a difference” vein, while their own Twins and Benny Green’s roaring Funky Fluke demonstrate how well and wittily Johnny and Lockjaw can cook at a fast-and-furious pace.
Recent JAZZLAND releases include:
The Soulful Piano of Junior Mance – JLP 30 & Stereo 930S
The Resurgence of Dexter Gordon – JLP 29 & Stereo 929S
Guitar Groove – Rene Thomas, with JR Monterose – JLP 27 & Stereo 927S
West Coast Blues – Harold Land, with West Montgomery – JLP 20 & Stereo 920S
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Notes by CHRIS ALBERTSON
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photos by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, N.Y.