Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis/ Johnny Griffin: The Tenor Scene (1961) Esquire

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Track Selection: Straight No Chaser

Artists

Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Johnny Griffin (ts) Junior Mance (p) Larry Gales (b) Ben Riley (d) recorded live at Minton’s Playhouse, Harlem, NYC, Breakfast set, January 6, 1961

The so-called “Tough Tenors” quintet, a two-year collaboration between Davis under contract to Prestige and Griffin to Riverside, on an album also known as the “Breakfast Show”. Both Lockjaw and Johnny Griffin went on to an association with Francy Boland Big Band, recording with the  European jazz scene (notably FBBB’s  Sax No End)

I couldn’t find anything definitive how Eddie Davis’s nickname Lockjaw came about. Lockjaw is a stage in tetanus infection which causes muscle spasms in the jaw, hardly an image to choose as your stage name. How about the soulful sounds of Freddie “Gangrene” Smith on piano, and Henry “Chesty Cough” Jones on trumpet? Still, I admit “Edward Davis” does sound a bit bland and in need of showbiz spicing up, so “Lockjaw” it was.

Music

6th January sessions which spread over a number of releases, this being the fruit of the Breakfast Set. The same day there was also the 1st set, the Late Set, and the Midnight Set at Mintons Playhouse, Harlem. Tenor “shredding”, as there is only one speed, very fast, as these two “tough tenors” trade licks and maintain the breakneck speed. Not music to relax to

Borrowing the learning of others:

“Sounding positively mainstream beside the mercurial Bebop Griffin, Lockjaws’swaggering, melodramatic delivery gives these sessions the stature of a classic boxing bout.” Although the two tenors were of different temperaments both musically and emotionally—Davis played with the fire he learned with Basie and was known for his observant, wry, and private nature, while Griffin, who had played with Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, and Thelonius Monk was outgoing and always smiling—their ideas complemented and enhanced one another. “What we are doing is presenting, side by side, two different styles of playing tenor—a contrast, not a contest,”

“Blues-based themes phrased in close harmonies or powerful unison, rock-hard swing, and roistering horns locked from the jump were the calling cards of the Davis-Griffin quintets”

Vinyl: Equire 32-144 UK release of Prestige PRLP 7191

Great Prestige cover, isnt it just,?  And its green.  Another shocker from Esquire: a litho of fingers inserting a reed into the mouthpiece of a tenor, meticulous detail of  “fingernails”. Who’s idea was this? Shut the door on your way out.

Madmen, where were you when we needed you?

Interestingly A-1 and B-1, suggesting a second master, atypical of Esquire/Prestige metalwork

Something was afoot here, difficult to know what.

Collectors Corner

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Source: A shop

I need to be careful here, the owner occasionally follows this blog. Suburban record store in vibrant exciting outer South East London. Sounds OK? I don’t want to find myself banned.

Several interesting Esquires had come in under one collection. You could tell the collection previous owner had a taste for big beefy tenor sax, and a bargain-hunter budget. Fairly OK vinyl though by no means perfect, covers had definitely seen better days, price balancing the two. Interesting and unusual, and I went home with twelve records that day, for possibly the price of one collectible on eBay.

A phrase I picked up on my peripatetic journey through life, attributed to one Joseph Stalin. Contradicting the standard management consultants nostrum “Quality not Quantity” excuse from one of his generals, Stalin is said to have observed “Quantity has a Quality all of its own“. So does twelve records.

Cover photos updated December 22, 2016

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5 thoughts on “Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis/ Johnny Griffin: The Tenor Scene (1961) Esquire

  1. Very late to this one, but just got the Analogue Productions “Prestige Stereo Series” reissue of this, and notice in the first track (Light and Lovely) the drums / cymbals seem to drop out of the left channel for 20 seconds (from 5:40 – 6:00 or so), like a huge recording snafu. just wondering if that is present in all pressings? I hear it on this YouTube posting as well… https://youtu.be/Ui01MZOeVHo

    Seems like a major gaffe to leave in?

  2. Call me crazy, but for a second I thought that the lower part of the cover photo clearly depicts the toes of someone’s foot 😉

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