Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

Battle Stations

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When Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin joined forces and formed a two-tenor front line, bop enthusiasts could safely assume that the sparks were going to fly. Davis and Griffin, after all, were one of hard bop's exciting tenor teams -- their saxophone battles were as legendary as the encounters of Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray, or Phil Woods and Gene Quill (who, unlike the other teams mentioned here, were a two-alto pair). Battle Stations, like other Davis/Griffin encounters, points to the fact that the two tenormen never had a problem finding common ground. Both had big tones; both were very extroverted, aggressive players; and both swung unapologetically hard -- no one ever mistook either of them for members of jazz's cool school, which favored subtlety, restraint, and understatement over intensity and aggression. A sense of friendly competition is evident on Battle Stations; when Davis and Griffin lock horns, the result is musical sportsmanship at its finest. And "friendly" is the operative word on this 1960 date -- as competitive as Davis and Griffin could be, they had a great deal of respect for one another. Battle Stations (which employs Norman Simmons on piano, Victor Sproles on bass, and Ben Riley on drums) demonstrates that the saxmen were not only sparring partners, they were also a mutual admiration society, and the improvisers enjoy an incredibly strong rapport on hard-swinging numbers like "Pull My Coat," "Hey Jim!," and "What's Happening." Battle Stations is an album that fans of heated two-tenor exchanges shouldn't overlook.

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