Blue Monday

I believe it was Gary Giddins who called Johnny Griffin “the last of the Chicago speedballs,” and as the above clip of him performing “56” demonstrates, Griffin could leave most other saxophonists in the dust. But Griffin — who died last week at the age of 80 — had other cards up his sleeze. His 1961 tribute to Thelonious Monk, Lookin’ at Monk with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, showed everyone a new way to appreciate monk’s artistry, and in later years Griffin’s sound mellowed like an old meerschaum. Tyros should start with Way Out, a 1958 quartet recording that showcases every angle of Griffin’s artistry, and then start exploring.

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