Little Giant Passes

Sad news from France. American jazz giant Johnny Griffin has passed away at his home in Mauprévoir in France, hours before he was scheduled to perform with organist Rhoda Scott, French sax player Olivier Termine and drummer Julie Saury. He gave his last concert on Monday in the town of Hyère, France.

Born April 24, 1928 in Chicago, he attended the famed music program at DuSable High School under the supervision of Capt. Walter Dyett (which was also notably attended by singers Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington, and saxophonists Gene Ammons and Von Freeman). 

After his studies, Griffin joined Lionel Hampton's band in 1945, leaving him in 1947 to join trumpeter Joe Morris. In the '50s, he played with several bands, most notably Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with whom he played with in 1957. He also performed with Nat Adderley, Thelonius Monk, and John Coltrane with whom he recorded "A Blowin' Session" in 1957 for Blue Note.

He teamed up with another sax player, Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis in the 1960s to form a group which recorded eight records.

He moved to Europe in 1963 and has lived there since.

I got to hear him live at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1999 and still get goose bumps recalling his lyrical style and tremendous chops. Definitely one of the most enjoyable live performances I had ever attended.

He will be missed. 

You can read Ben Ratliff's article in The New York Times here.