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New Reissue From Eddie 'Lockjaw' Davis And Johnny Griffin Is A Love Letter To Fans

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. In the early 1960s, saxophonists Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin co-led a jumping two-tenor band. A live recording has now surfaced. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says it's literally a blast from the past.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY GRIFFIN AND EDDIE DAVIS' "BLUES UP & DOWN")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin, from the album "Ow! Live At The Penthouse", a new issue from 1962. It's a love letter to fans who think that jazz can never swing hard enough, that the music is all about that springy, propulsive rhythm. Personally, I don't insist on it every second, but swing is one of jazz's great pleasures, a rhythm feel at once buoyant and tough. Showing how it's done are airy pianist Horace Parlan, tireless bass walker Buddy Cattlet and heavy drum swinger Arthur Taylor. They bring that lift even at killer tempos.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY GRIFFIN AND EDDIE DAVIS' "INTERMISSION RIFF")

WHITEHEAD: Johnny Griffin gets top billing on "Ow! Live At The Penthouse", but on their old LPs, that honor went to the slightly older Lockjaw Davis. He makes the stage announcements here and usually solos first, with an agreeably raspy tone and imposing rhythmic swagger. Here's Lockjaw on "Bahia".

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY GRIFFIN AND EDDIE DAVIS' "BAHIA")

WHITEHEAD: One sound reason for Lockjaw Davis to solo first - it was not a good idea to follow Johnny Griffin. Tenor pairings are less about competition than mutual respect and a celebration of contrasting styles, but Griffin did have a competitive streak. He didn't need to win every battle but gave the impression that was in his power. He was scary fast, the way John Coltrane was in 1962. Here's Johnny Griffin on that same tune after the rhythm trio jacks up the tempo.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY GRIFFIN AND EDDIE DAVIS' "BAHIA")

WHITEHEAD: Johnny Griffin. On the trades at the end of a few tunes, where the tenors volley short phrases back and forth, the saxophonists egg each other on like good friends. They also take mutual delight in negotiating insane tempos, as on "Tickle Toe".

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY GRIFFIN AND EDDIE DAVIS' "TICKLE TOE")

WHITEHEAD: Love the burry sound of their lashing into the melody there. Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis' "Ow! Live At The Penthouse" was recorded at that Seattle jazz room that musicians like to play. That was during a 10-day stand in late spring 1962, just as Seattle tourism was getting a boost from the recently opened World's Fair with its Space Needle. Great live gigs are usually lost to the ages, but by good fortune, these two half-hour sets were broadcast over local radio and got recorded with good sound. And those tapes got preserved and remembered, which is how this still-fresh music is now before our ears, as if unearthed from a World's Fair time capsule.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY GRIFFIN AND EDDIE DAVIS' "OW!")

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and The Audio Beat. He reviewed "Ow! Live At The Penthouse" featuring saxophonist Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, recorded in 1962.

Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guests will be journalist Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld, who won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting in The Wall Street Journal on hush money payments to former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal and porn star Stormy Daniels to keep secret their affairs with Donald Trump. Palazzolo and Rothfeld have a new book called "The Fixers: The Bottom-Feeders, Crooked Lawyers, Gossipmongers, And Porn Stars Who Created The 45th President". I hope you can join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer of digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHNNY GRIFFIN AND EDDIE DAVIS' "OW!") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.