Saturday, July 26, 2008

A message arrived just now from my mate Alex asking if I'd heard that Johnny Griffin had died. I hadn't. Back when I was assistant editor of Crescendo and Jazz Music, one of my most pleasurable assignments was an annual trip to the Wigan Jazz Festival. One of the magazine's other writers did the bulk of the reviewing, so I was left to prop up the hotel bar with the musicians and generally have a nice time. When the Little Giant (as Griff was known) was in town, I had a blinder of a night just listening to him hold forth, as he laid waste to the bar's supply of Bushmills. I think I might have helped a bit. There was a hairy moment when his female German manager - a delightful lady until crossed - passed the table and rumbled the contents of his tumbler. He was, she made quite clear, under doctor's orders to avoid spirits. Johnny smiled sweetly and explained that one of the nice people at the table had bought it for him, and he'd felt it would be rude to refuse. I'm lucky that my work's brought me into the presence of greatness on several occasions. That night was one such occasion. Remember him this way:

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