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“The Little Giant”

Saxophonist Johnny Griffin

Griffin’s Hard Bop:

Johnny Griffin was a legendary saxophonist who made an indelible mark on the world of jazz music. During his illustrious career, he played with many of the greats, including Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. His time with the Messengers was a pivotal moment in the development of hard bop, a sub-genre of jazz that combined elements of bebop, blues, and R&B to create a new and exciting sound.

Griffin joined the Jazz Messengers in 1957, becoming a key member of the group alongside Blakey, Lee Morgan, and Benny Golson. The band’s sound was characterized by its high energy and tight, rhythmic grooves, which were a hallmark of the hard bop style. Griffin’s playing on tracks like “Blues March” and “Moanin'” helped to define the sound of the group and the style of music they were creating.

Griffin’s improvisational skills were on full display during his time with the Jazz Messengers. His solos were characterized by their virtuosity and their emotional depth, with his playing seamlessly weaving in and out of the other instruments in the band. His contributions helped to establish the Jazz Messengers as one of the most important groups in jazz history and helped to pave the way for the development of hard bop as a genre.

After leaving the Jazz Messengers, Griffin continued to work as a bandleader and session musician, collaborating with artists like Wes Montgomery and Lionel Hampton. His playing continued to evolve, incorporating elements of soul and funk into his sound and remaining at the forefront of jazz music for decades. We remember Johnny Griffin today, on his birthday.

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