Known for his lightning fast soloing, tremendous drive and superb
technique, Johnny Griffin is the quintessential hard bop tenor saxophonist.
Born in Chicago in 1928, Griffin played alto as a youngster, switching to the bigger horn on the initial day of his first professional gig, with Lionel Hamptonís Orchestra in 1945. He continued to perform around Chicago on both the Jazz and R&B scenes with people like fellow tenorman Arnette
Cobb and trumpeter Joe Thomas before joining the army for two years.
In the mid Ď50s, Griffin began to draw serious attention through a series of excellent Blue Note recordings and his work with Art Blakeyís Jazz Messengers. During his stint with the Messengers they recorded an album with Thelonious Monk, and Griffin continued that working relationship, touring and recording with the enigmatic pianist in 1958.
While working with some of the musicís top names, like Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Count Basie and John Coltrane on recordings and live dates, Griffin began to record for Riverside in the late Ď50s.
Soon Johnny hooked up with another powerful, soulful tenor man in Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Together they revived the "tough tenors" concept that had been a staple of Jazz history. Often taking on Monk tunes as launching points, their "battles" produced some of the most joyous and exuberant music of the era.
By 1963, like so many other major Jazz artists who could not achieve proper recognition at home, Griffin moved to Europe and didnít tour the U.S. again until 1978, at the urging of fellow expatriate Dexter Gordon. Still residing in France, "The Little Giant," as heís called for his small stature and enormous talent, continues to tour the world, performing at major festivals, concert halls and Jazz clubs, sounding as strong as ever.