One of those ubiquitous Milestone 70s two-fers combining two nice sides from the little giant. The first set is Big Soul Band, a sweet little album from Johnny – quite different than most of his other sessions at the time, as this one features a big band, as the title says – filled with some strong Chicago and soul jazz
players, and featuring killer arrangements by the great Norman Simmons! Simmons' was just bubbling up at the time – and he had a sock soul jazz
sound that was part of his time on the Chicago scene, and which, unfortunately, rarely achieved as strong of recorded expression as it did on this album. Griffin's a heck of a great player, even at this age, and the strength of his horn sits nicely in the front of a great ensemble that also includes Pat Patrick, Matthew Gee, Julian Priester, Frank Strozier, Bobby Timmons, Harold Mabern, Vic Sproles, and Charlie Persip. Titles include a number of Simmons originals – like "Meditation", "Panic Room
Blues", and "Holla" – plus a great reading of Timmons' "So Tired"! The second LP is Johnny's tribute to Billie Holiday – with Johnny's tenor fronting some larger backing on strings and brass – but hipper than most efforts of this type, thanks to some great arrangements by Melba Liston and Norman Simmons! The record's a nice change from some of Johnny's more full-on bop sessions from the same time – and it's nice to hear that his tenor works equally well on mellow tracks and ballads like "God Bless The Child", "Gloomy Sunday", "Travelin' Light", "Left Alone", and "Detour Ahead".
(Still sealed, lightly shopworn, with a Sound Purchase sticker obscuring a promo imprint under the shrink.)