Lookin’ at Monk: 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; February 7, 1961
In Walked Bud (4:34)
Well, You Needn’t (5:31)
Ruby, My Dear(4:39)
‘Round Midnight (5:22)
Stickball (I Mean You) (5:55)
(all selections composed by Thelonious Monk)
This is the second Jazzland album by the happy quintet led by the free-swinging tenor sax team of JOHNNY GRIFFIN and EDDIE “LOCKJAW” DAVIS. It also marks one of the extremely rare occasions (I can think of only one other – except of course those made by the composer himself) on which an album has been entirely devoted to the music of Thelonious Monk.
The rareness of such a tribute to Monk’s writing is actually not too hard to understand, for the truth is that, beyond a very few often-attempted exceptions, Thelonious’ numbers are regarded by most musicians as somewhat too tough to be readily talked. But this brash, robust and fearless group is certainly a logical choice for the job – both because Lock and Griff refuse to consider anything too tough for them, and because they are musically and emotionally closely in tune with Monk’s music. As you might expect, there is nothing at al pretentious here. There is instead a strong cutting-through to the warm, earthy, deeply blues-based and frequently witty spirit that lies at the foundation of Thelonious’ work.
The idea for the album originally emerged from the fact that several Monk tunes had gradually become part of the quintet’s working repertoire. In large part this was due to the great fondness for this music felt by Griffin (who had been featured with Monk’s Quartet during most of 1958), and also to a realization of just how apt this material was for them. “There is a certain rhythmic freedom in almost all his compositions that makes them ideal for us,” Johnny notes, “since above all we always try to generate a feeling of freedom with this group.”
Among their ‘regular’ numbers here are an extended treatment of Monk’s long-time theme, Epistrophy, and the tune best known as I Mean You – which they insist on calling by what Johnny informs us was its original title: Stickball. There are also two ballads – ‘Round Midnight and Ruby My Dear – as solo showcases for Griffin and Davis respectively.
The quintet, which has received wide acclaim since it inception in May, 1960, draws much of its strength from the almost uncanny rapport between its two free-blowing co-leaders. Both of course had previously established strong individual reputations with groups of their own (and with earlier backgrounds including Lockjaw’s service with Count Basie’s band in the early ‘50s, and Johnny’s stints with Art Blakey and Monk). Their fine rhythmic support comes from bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley and, in particular, the very blues-inspired and thoroughly swinging piano of Junior Mance.
(Eddie Davis, who recorded this material through the courtesy of Prestige Records, has now joined Johnny Griffin as an exclusive Jazzland and Riverside artist.)
The quintet’s first JAZZLAND album is:
Tough Tenors – Johnny Griffin and Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis – JLP 31 & Stereo 931S
Other outstanding recent releases include:
The Soulful Piano of Junior Mance – JLP 30 & Stereo 930S
Eastward Ho! – Harold Land, with Kenny Dorham – JLP 33 & Stereo 933S
Gemini – Les Spann, flute and guitar – JLP 35 & Stereo 935S
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Notes written by CHRIS ALBERTSON
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photographs by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components Corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe
JAZZLAND RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York