|© photograph: Yukio Ichikawa|
The name of Joe Morris (1922-58) hardly rings a bell today. However, those familiar with the big bands of Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich and Dizzy Gillespie will recognize this trumpet player who after some busy years in big bands led his own usually loud combos, playing rhythm and blues charts. It is in one of these small combos that the little giant of tenor sax, Johnny Griffin, is presented at the age of 19.
Did Griffin pick up something from his demanded rough, bluesy, riff-based performance here for his future's distinctive style? It's hard to think he didn't.
Thirty years on, we see Mr. Griffin in another unusual recording environment, this time for the soundtrack of a film made by the celebrated French filmmaker, Bertrand Tavernier.
The sweaty feeling of the 78 is replaced with an European elegance. While both are common emotions evoked in the wide spectrum of jazz and one of the reasons why this music, by and large, didn't become vulgar or classy.
Tavernier who is also a great jazz fan (he directed Round Midnight in 1986) made Des Enfants Gâtés as his fourth feature in 1977.
As other examples in the favorite French cinema's sub-genre of "dying Paris," Des Enfants Gâtés deals with the story of old Paris on the wane, and the erection of the grim-looking residential complexes on the outskirts of the city (see design of the LP). From a sheer jazz point of view, aside from a scene in which the leading male characters talk about jazz, the main attraction is Philippe Sarde's soundtrack for which Johnny Griffin plays saxophone.
It is another example of how Griffin perfectly suits different musical and cultural requirements and each time creates something worthy of its context.
Now the music: the quintet who have performed Des Enfants Gâtés' soundtrack is Johnny Griffin (ts), John Surman (soprano sax), Jean-Pierre Mas (p), Barry Guy and François Rabbath (both bass). My selected piece is called Le Petit Couteau.