Johnny Griffin: Blues For Harvey


Blues for Harvey


Johnny Griffin (tenor sax)


Blues for Harvey (Steeplechase 31004)

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Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Kenny Drew (piano), Ed Thigpen (drums),

Mads Vinding (bass)


Composed by Johnny Griffin


Recorded: live at Jazzhus Montmartre, Copenhagen, Denmark, July 4 & 5, 1973


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

At the time of this 1973 recording, expatriates Johnny Griffin (Paris) and Kenny Drew (Copenhagen) had been living in Europe since the early '60's, while Ed Thigpen had only just relocated to Copenhagen a year earlier. Mads Vinding was the "house bassist" at the esteemed Jazzhus Montmartre, where this very tight quartet convened for a lively July 4th weekend. A great photo on the original LP dust jacket depicts Griffin, in a dashiki, bell bottoms, and sandals, waving his saxophone case while standing alongside a rather disheveled, liquor bottle-toting Harvey Sand, Johnny's "favorite Danish bartender." Both are apparently feeling no pain, nor will you after listening to the album's title track, "Blues for Harvey."

The emphatic, staccato riff-blues theme is spare but ample enough fodder for Griffin's dazzling extended solo, which is propelled by Vinding's surging bass line and Thigpen's variously accented shuffle rhythm. Griffin offers up droll Sonny Rollins-like phrases, hard-edged exclamations, free-boppish distorted intonations, unadorned bluesy riffs, ascending squeals, guttural honks, and more, all executed with his trademark sharp and precise articulation. Drew's succeeding solo possesses a kind of Wynton Kellyesque low-keyed swagger and burn, his prancing runs interspersed with vibrant chords. Griffin returns in full flight, showing once again how much meat can be carved out of a simple blues line. His tenor then begins compelling trades with Thigpen, who has been such a driving force thus far, until the drummer takes centerstage on his own and proves just how dynamic and inventive he can be free of the type of relatively restricted role he had for years as part of the Oscar Peterson trio.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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