JOHNNY GRIFFIN The Congregation (Blue Note)
Now, this is somewhat more like it. Maybe it’s his choice of material, or his slightly raspy tenor sax tone, but I have a far greater hit rate in identifying a Johnny Griffin track when it emerges from the perpetual shuffle soup of my iPod than I do with Dexter Gordon’s work.
On the title track and “Main String”, bluesy numbers both, Griffin and his supporting trio (which includes Sonny Clark, again, and bass legend Paul Chambers) frankly stomp. “I’m Glad There Is You”, happily familiar to me from Sarah Vaughan’s version, demonstrates how listening to more vocal jazz is paying dividends with my appreciation of standards, and “It’s You Or No One” is full of perky, impish inventiveness.
The current issue of “The Congregation” is no sonic treat compared with the marvels Analogue Productions and Music Matters are achieving at 45rpm –it sounds a bit closed in and congested – but it gets a percentage of its message across. The packaging isn’t flawless either: the undocumented inclusion of the CD’s bonus track, “I Remember You”, has plunged the tracklist into confusion. But this is Blue Note vinyl for the people, and priced at a level where compromises are negotiable. All this and an Andy Warhol cover illustration too – how much cooler could it possibly get?