The Jazz Life

Johnny Griffin

Johnny Griffin and his trio play three numbers, two at extremely rapid tempos

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Johnny Griffin was acclaimed in the 1950s as the world’s fastest saxophonist, a title that he never gave up.

This 1981 performance at the Village Vanguard has Griffin ripping through a very fast blues dedicated to Babs Gonzalez (“Blues For Gonzil”), cooling it down slightly for his original “A Monk’s Dream,” and then going past maximum speed on “Fifty Six” (based partly on Charlie Parker’s “Confirmation”).

In addition to Griffin who never runs out of gas at these tempos, the playing by the rhythm section (Ronnie Matthews, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Kenny Washington) is heroic.


Johnny Griffin, tenor sax
Ronnie Matthews, piano
Ray Drummond, bass
Kenny Washington, drums

– Scott Yanow


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