'Wade In The Water', by The Johnny Griffin Orchestra
After playing in Lionel Hampton’s big band, John Arnold Griffin III (1928-2008, a.k.a. ‘Little Giant’) joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in 1957 and later on succeeded Coltrane in Monk’s Five Spot Quartet.
Griffin was leader on his first Blue Note album ’Introducing Johnny Griffin’ in 1956, the record that brought Griffin critical acclaim. Subsequent to his three albums for Blue Note (Griffin did not get along with the label’s house engineer Rudy Van Gelder), he recorded for Orrin Keepnews’ Riverside Records, including this 1960 album ‘The Big Soul Band’.
After moving to Europe in 1963, Griffin became the ‘first choice’ sax player for visiting US musicians touring the continent during the 1960’s and 1970’s. He kept playing frequently till his death on July 25th, 2008.
Today’s song ‘Wade In The Water' is an African-American spiritual, first published in ‘New Jubilee Songs as Sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers’ in 1901, and covered by many artists ever since, including Billy Preston, Herb Alpert and Bob Dylan.
Many sources claim that this song contains explicit instructions to fugitive slaves on how to avoid capture and the route to take to successfully make their way to freedom by leaving dry land and taking to the water as a strategy to throw pursuing bloodhounds off one’s trail.
Johnny Griffin, Edwin Williams - Tenor Saxophone
Pat Patrick - Alto Saxophone
Charlie Davis - Baritone Saxophone
Bob Bryant, Clark Terry - Trumpet
Julian Priester, Matthew Gee - Trombone
Harold Mabern - Piano
Bob Cranshaw - Bass
Charlie Persip - Drums