Live review

Frank Griffith Quartet, Boater’s Inn, Kingston

Frank Griffith Quartet
(Boater’s Inn, Kingston, Surrey, 9 June 2019. Review by Peter Vacher)

The Frank Griffith Quartet at the Boater’s Inn, Kingston
(Photo: Peter Vacher)

Our Friend from the North, the now-bearded tenorist Frank Griffith and sometime London Jazz News reviewer who is based these days in Liverpool, was on a lightning visit to old haunts or to put it another way, undertaking a mini-Southern tour. This included a return gig at Boater’s in Kingston, a riverside pub with a long history of presenting Sunday-night free jazz, that’s free as in ‘gratis’, of course.

Shoe-horned into a corner of this capacious and very popular hostelry, like an outpost of jazz amid the hubbub, Griffith was in his usual thoughtful if trenchant form, combining readily with Nigel Price on guitar, urged on by the clever promptings from organist Pete Whittaker and the always dynamic drumming of veteran Les Cirkel.

If the customers with a jazz inclination were quite few, they were aware enough to know this was music of quality, a reminder that the US-born Griffith had a serious Stateside career before settling here. After all, he once toured in a combo headed by organist Jack McDuff and that experience certainly told when the group tackled Horace Silver’s The Jody Grind, which had all the requisite soul and catchy funk feeling. Needless to say, this audience loved it.

Frank Griffith
(Photo: Peter Vacher)

Even so, Griffith and Price are not men to tie themselves to the obvious, moving on from Silver-style soul jazz to Lucky Lady, a nicely made original by Griffith himself, and then to Yardbird Suite taken at a hectic clip, with breaks for Whittaker and Cirkel and on to Misty with a splendid Price solo that made it seem like a blues.

Griffith likes to play with the tenor’s sound, sometimes occupying the near-falsetto upper range of the instrument, with more than a passing resemblance to the late Joe Henderson. He avoids the obvious every time, swinging out choppily on the set closer, One O’clock Jump, as if Basie had never existed.

Welcome back to the South, Frank.

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