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Johnny Griffin/Steve Grossman Quintet: Johnny Griffin and Steve Grossman Quintet

Two of the great expatriate American tenor saxophonists in Europe team up for a happy hour of unrestrained blowing. Both apply all of their energy, technical prowess, command of chords and observance of swing as a first principle. Together, they continue the competitive tradition of two-tenor bebop sessions epitomized by Griffin’s partnership with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Sonny Stitt’s with Gene Ammons. The rhythm section has another overseas American, drummer Alvin Queen, with the veteran French bassist Pierre Michelot and pianist Michael Weiss, who has worked with Griffin for several years. Griffin’s “Waltzswing” and Weiss’ “Power Station” are highlights among the swingers. Grossman’s ballad feature is his “Little Pugie,” and Griffin’s is his “You’ve Never Been There,” highlighting the tough tenors’ tender sides.

Of the nine tracks, all are original compositions by the participants except for Gigi Gryce’s “Nica’s Tempo” and the Mercer-Arlen standard “This Time the Dream’s on Me.” One of the tenor men confuses the first four bars of “This Time the Dream’s on Me” with the beginning of “Serenata,” but it fits, so why quibble; the spirit is right. Weiss, a consistently inventive pianist too little remarked upon, contributes several fine solos.

Originally Published