Francine Griffin

The Song Bird

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It's always a remarkable story for a musician to be on the shelf, unrecorded for decades, before the world at large acknowledges them. Griffin, a resident of Cleveland and Cincinatti before coming to Chicago, was "discovered" by Delmark's Bob Koester, and the result is this excellent CD. Griffin's vocal style reflects the greats like Carmen McRae or Shirley Horn in her subtle bluesiness and bop influenced chance taking. Not surprising that she's sung with greats like Diz, Bird, 'Trane, Horace Silver, Miles, Dolphy and many others. What is shocking is that it's taken so long for her to get to this point of documentation, for she is truly an exceptional singer in all regards.

Griffin's perspective can be romantic and melancholy ("You've Changed," "You Won't Forget Me") lighthearted and loose ("It's Crazy," "With A Twist Of The Wrist,") or out-and-out blues struck ("Will You Still Be Mine.") She'll just as easily tackle a bop anthem like "Anthropology" as do a chilling, weepy tribute as "I Remember Clifford." Everything jazz authentique is within her purview, and her voice seems to get stronger throughout the program. She's ably helped by Chicago jazz veterans; saxophonists Mike Smith, Hank Ford and Ed Peterson, trombonist Paul McKee, trumpeter Art Hoyle, pianists Willie Pickens and Brad Williams, bassist John Whitfield and drummers Mike Raynor, George Fludas and Wilbur Campbell, all top notch sessionmen.

Comparsion to others may be inevitable, but it's sure that Griffin's singing will burrow a pipeline straight to your heart. The clarity and depth of her lyrics, her beautiful instrument, born to sing them, and her wiley, feminine way of expression, can't help but impress. This is a must buy for those fans of vocal jazz, and another candidate for vocal jazz CD of the year.

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