Little Johnny Griffin (1928-2008) was a first-class blower, a tenorman who believed in the inspiration of the moment and reacting to circumstances, as is self-evident on the two albums included in this set. Little Giant is one of those rare items that elicit a visceral response from the listener. Direct and virile, Griffin never allows his supreme command of the instrument to obscure the emotional burden of his playing; he simply compells attention no matter the musical context. Here its provided by Norman Simmons, who composed three pieces and scored them for the three horns, and a quality rhythm section led by pianist Wynton Kelly.
Standout tracks include The Message and Griffins 63rd Street Theme. Interestingly, Griffin reveals a sizeable Don Byas influence on Babs Gonzales lovely Lonely One, played by tenor, bass and drums. On the others, Blue Mitchell, Julian Priester and Kellys solos contribute enormously to the albums success. On Change of Pace, the rich, swinging combination of two basses (one bowed, the other plucked) blended with drums, and the addition of the woody, mellow sound of Watkins cool, calm French hornto contrast with Griffins knife-edged tenor saxophoneopens some unusually interesting possibilities for jazz explorations.
01. Olive Refractions (Simmons) 4:15
02. The Message (Simmons) 7:20
03. Lonely One (Gonzales) 4:06
04. 63rd Street Theme (Griffin) 7:30
05. Playmates (Dowell) 4:18
06. Venus and the Moon (Simmons) 6:29
07. Soft and Furry (Griffin) 3:38
08. In the Still of the Night (Porter) 3:25
09. The Last of the Fat Pants (Griffin) 4:17
10. Same to You (Griffin) 4:19
11. Connies Bounce (Lee) 3:55
12. Situation (Watkins) 3:51
13. Nocturne (Lee) 5:21
14. Why Not? (Griffin) 4:57
15. As We All Know (Lee) 4:44
16. Guns of Navarone (Tiomkin) 2:34 *
(*) Bonus Track
Tracks #1-6, from the Riverside album "The Little Giant" (RLP-1149)
Tracks #7-15, from the Riverside album "Change of Pace" (RLP-9368)
Track #16, from the Riverside 45 rpm single (RLP-4506)
Personnel on The Little Giant:
Johnny Griffin Sextet
Blue Mitchell (trumpet), Julian Priester (trombone), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Sam Jones (bass), Albert 'Tootie' Heath (drums). On track #3 only Griffin, Jones and Heath.
Recorded at Reeves Sound Studios, New York City, August 4 & 5, 1959
Personnel on Change of Pace:
Johnny Griffin Quintet
Julius Watkins (french horn), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Bill Lee, Larry Gales (basses), Ben Riley (drums).
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City, February 7 (#7,10,13,15) & 18 (#8,9,11,12 & 14), 1961
Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), with unidentified rhythm section.
Recorded in 1961
Original recordings produced by Orrin Keepnews & Bill Grauer
Produced for CD release by Jordi Pujol
Stereo · 24-Bit Digitally Remastered