March 1999

Phil Woods featuring Johnny Griffin
The Rev and I
Blue Note Records

Alto saxophonist Phil Woods and tenorman Johnny Griffin go way back—40 years all told, and 30 since the two were in Thelonious Monk's band together. They are reunited for Woods' debut on Blue Note, along with drummer Ben Riley, another member of that Monk unit. Pianist Cedar Walton and bassist Peter Washington complete a quintet long on both spirit and technique. Woods' virtuosity continues to be a supple vehicle for an astonishing flow of ideas that constantly challenge convention without ever violating it. Griffin's legendary speed makes appearances, but in measured doses: He is as dazzling in restraint as in full steam. The two overdub on three tracks to create a full section effect: more joy. The title track sets things off with a percolating undercurrent of percussion, and momentum builds from there. Woods and Griffin are a powerful combination, clearly enjoying themselves throughout these proceedings: Let's hope we hear more of this venerable friendship.

Originally published in March 1999
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