Johnny Griffin Day

April 24, 1928 – July 25, 2008

The Jamfs Are Coming

Tenor saxophone giant John Arnold Griffin III was born April 24, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois.

Griffin was one of that long line of distinguished musicians who came out of Walter Dyett’s music program at DuSable High School.

Three days after high school graduation, he was already touring with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra.

Griffin found musical homes with Art Blakey and then Thelonious Monk. He also recorded dozens of albums as a leader and sideman.

Back in Chicago, a city of “monster” tenor players (Hank Mobley, Gene Ammons, and Von Freeman), he found himself in numerous “old school” cutting sessions.

Johnny Griffin began playing clarinet and oboe during his youth in Chicago before picking up the alto saxophone.

His first appearance on record came soon after with Hampton’s band in Los Angeles in 1945.

In 1947 Griffin left the Hampton band to form a sextet and can be heard on various Atlantic R&B records from the late ’40s and early ’50s.

He got the nickname “Little Giant” for his small stature and surprisingly big sound.

During the early 1960 he performed as co-leader of a quartet with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and recorded several albums.

Johnny Griffin moved to France in 1963, followed by his 1978 relocation to the Netherlands where he would resided for the rest of his days.

The “Johnny Griffin Quartet” perform live In France on August 29, 1971.


Johnny Griffin, tenor sax
Vince Benedetti, piano
Alby Cullaz, bass
Art Taylor, drums