Jazz legend Griffin dies in France at 80

28th July 2008, Comments 0 comments

The US jazz tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin died at home in Mauprevoir on Friday, said his agent.

28 July 2008

PARIS - US jazz tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, who played alongside such luminaries as Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey and Thelonius Monk, died Friday in France, his agent Helene Manfredi said. He was 80.

Nicknamed the Little Giant, Griffin was due to perform Friday evening alongside US organist Rhoda Scott, French saxophonist Olivier Temime and drummer Julie Saury.

Griffin died at home in Mauprevoir, a village in the west-central La Vienne district, where he had spent the last 18 years of his life. The cause of death was not disclosed.

After studying music at the DuSable High School in his native Chicago, Griffin joined vibes star Hampton's orchestra in 1945 before leaving with trumpeter Joe Morris to join the latter's own band.

Throughout the 1950s, he played with a variety of combos, including Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.

He also played alongside cornetist Nat Adderley and recorded with John Coltrane. The fruits of that collaboration produced the 1957 Blue Note album for which he is perhaps best remembered, "A Blowin' Session".

At the start of the 1960s, Griffin founded his own group along with another saxophone player, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, but in 1962 he decided to set up home in France.

A spell in the Netherlands followed in the 1970s, before his return to France, where he continued to record and tour right to the end.

Legendary London jazz club Ronnie Scott's described Griffin on its website as a "member of jazz's elite ... his burning solos and furiously nimble runs anchored by an amazingly well-informed and complete grasp of melody and harmony, marking him out as one of the greatest tenor sax players".

[AFP / Expatica]

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