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Johnny Griffin


The year is 1957, and the place is Chicago. Stopping only to breathe, Johnny Griffin unleashes from his horn a flurry of notes so fast that the audience begins to wonder where the fire is. Such was Griffin’s early style. He started his career with a bang, and calmed down considerably as his playing developed. By 1958, he was already playing ballads; that year, he recorded a breakthrough sextet album with an all-star lineup, featuring the great baritone sax player Pepper Adams. By 1960, he’d branched out to fronting larger ensembles. The following year, he recorded a tribute to Billie Holiday that included strings. Griffin played in a cutting Hard Bop style, which had its roots in Charlie Parker’s harmonic innovations but employed a sharper attack. He was never as sensitive a ballad player as other hard-boppers such as Sonny Rollins. Nevertheless, his music offers exciting listening.

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