(Johnny Griffin, tenor sax; Wynton Kelly, piano; Curley Russell, bass; Max Roach, drums)
Not all of the RVG upgrades using 24-bit resolution made for Blue Note’s RVG series have been distinct improvements over the original issues – certainly not enough to make a second purchase of the same music a sound investment. However, the remastering that Van Gelder has done on Johnny Griffin’s initial Blue Note release, for the RVG series IS worth the investment in an upgrade. Comparing the two issues, the original CD issue from 1987, to the 2006 RVG remastering reveals a cleaner, brighter sonic picture. It’s like a veil has been taken off your speakers when you compare the two issues. Griffin’s tenor has an “in the room” presence and Wynton Kelly’s piano is more upfront. Certainly Max Roach’s cymbals are so much more “there” with the vibration and echo palpable.
Griffin had earned the moniker of “The Little Giant” soon after this CD was issued and his legendary speed on the tenor blew much of the competition away at the time, with the exception of Sonny Rollins. Griffin has never got his due as a balladeer and blues tenor titan. Griffin handles These Foolish Things gorgeously, and the blues changes of Nice and Easy stand the test of time. It’s All Right with Me is the mile-a-minute Griffin that he is most noted for, as is Johnny’s reading of The Way You Look Tonight, which is more often given a more sedate treatment.
For pure sensuousness, however, Griffin’s tenor on Lover Man is comparable to the ballad skills of Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrentine and Houston Person. Johnny could do it all and his flame throwing style has been more prominently mentioned over the years than his ballad playing. Mention must also be made of how strong a showing Wynton Kelly gives on this session, made three years before he made his own name as a leader with Kelly Blue. It’s easy to see why Miles Davis scooped him up, just a few months later in 1959, for Miles’ all time classic Kind of Blue.
Introducing Johnny Griffin is one RVG issue worth the upgrade. Save your 1987 issue for your car stereo or to pass on to a friend with a less discriminating stereo system.
Tracklist: Mil Dew, Chicago Calling, These Foolish Things, The Boy Next Door, Nice and Easy, It’s All Right With Me, Lover Man, The Way You Look Tonight, Cherokee
– Jeff Krow