Trombonist Dick Griffin's big, hearty sound has been a well-defined asset in any of the musical buffets he has taken part in during his long career. Whether part of a James Brown horn section or a small modern jazz band, Griffin's trombone is a steaming dish -- if it was literally part of a smorgasbord spread there would always be several hungry customers lined up behind it, ladles ready. Jazz buffs wanted to dig right in when the trombonist served up his own album for the Strata-East co-operative label in the '70s, but the result was more like a stew that is not fully cooked at mealtime. By the time this one gets to full boil, many of the guests have gone home and hit the hay, to continue the analogy. When Sam Rivers takes off on a tenor solo during "Flying Back Home," the listener does the usual standing at attention, ears cocked, that is a required part of experiencing a Rivers solo. Yet by this time the record has already been flipped, it is only a bit more than ten minutes until the whole thing is over, and worst of all, the Rivers fan has already contemplated in sullen sadness why the first side went by without much more than a few peeps from the man. Bassist Cecil McBee does get in one of his gorgeous bass solos on the first side. He is part of an exceptional rhythm section partly made up of Griffin associates from Rahsaan Roland Kirk's Vibration Society. Kirk would never had let the first side of one of his albums drag so badly, despite his love of ballads. He would have known when enough was enough in terms of a beautiful sound and would have made an effort to shake things up. While an expanded version of these sessions issued on CD in 1995 may reveal other secrets, The Eighth Wonder as originally released shows that Griffin's greatest abilities may not be as a bandleader. Recorded sound and technical execution is as flawless as the multiphonic chops he displays when the needle first hits, but there isn't much sign of the expressive drive that makes the music of many of Griffin's employers over the years so compelling.
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AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne