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Wednesday, 16 October 2013
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRICAN AMERICAN " JOHNNY GRIFFIN " WILL GO DOWN IN THE ANNALS OF JAZZ AS A PERFORMER EASILY ABLE TO NEGOTIATE THE TRICKY HARMONIC CHANGES AND SWIFT TEMPOS OF MODERN MUSIC : GOES INTO THE " HALL OF BLACK GENIUS "
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Born John Arnold Griffin III in Chicago, Illinois, on April 24, 1928, he resided on the South Side of the Second City with his mother, who was a singer, and father, who played cornet. An adolescent Griffin heard Gene Ammons play in the big band of King Kolax. Two years later he picked up an alto saxophone, and soon thereafter was working with bluesman T-Bone Walker. A student at DuSable High School, he was tutored by the legendary band director Captain Walter Dyett. Upon graduation, he toured with Lionel Hampton's big band, switched to the tenor sax, and moved to New York City. The late '40s saw Griffin honking his share of R&B with Joe Morris up to 1950, alongside the band of Jo Jones in 1950, and with Arnett Cobb in 1951. He enlisted in the armed services stationed in Hawaii, and played in an Army band.
But Griffin grew weary of the U.S. and its apathy regarding jazz, so he became an expatriate. He was living in Paris, France, by 1963, and did many albums with European rhythm sections for the Storyville, Black Lion, and Steeplechase labels. He was also a charter member and chief soloist for many years in the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Bandalongside American and Continental standouts. The year 1975 was an important one for Griffin, who was featured with the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie as documented in recordings of their sets at the Montreux Jazz Festival. He also collaborated with German saxophonist Klaus Doldinger and his fusion band Passport. In the late '70s, Griffin returned to the States to record for the Galaxy label, and toured with fellow expatriate tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon.