Israeli jazz fans may have been upset last summer after legendary American tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin's scheduled performances at Tel Aviv's Goldstar Zappa club were suddenly cancelled, and the desire to hear this jazz legend was left unquenched.
The club's spokesperson explained at the time that unforeseen medical circumstances had forced the shows to be postponed, while Griffin vowed that they would be rescheduled.
Griffin, once labeled "the world's fastest saxophonist," is as good as his word, and performances have been scheduled to take place three nights this week. If all goes according to plan, the concerts will mark Griffin's first visit to Israel.
"There is a small but dedicated following of jazz music in Israel, and Israelis in general are very open to and appreciative of different kinds of music," says the Zappa publicist.
This appreciation is evidenced by an increased number of clubs throughout the country dedicated to jazz, the recognition of talented Israeli players such as bassist Avishai Cohen (who has played with pianist Chick Corea and on his own albums), recent performances by international stars such as avante-garde pianist Matthew Shipp and Latin jazz percussionist Ray Baretto, and Eilat's annual summer tradition, the Red Sea Jazz Festival, which draws hundreds of fans and artists from all over the world.
The kind of music audiences can expect from Griffin and his band represents a range of styles, from swing to hard bop.
"I prefer modern jazz, but with a taste of the old school," Griffin told The Jerusalem Post's Barry Davis in August, shortly before his planned visit.
The 77-year-old Griffin has been on the jazz circuit for almost 60 years, during which time he has traveled the world, played with big names such as Dizzy Gillespie and Lional Hampton, and collaborated with others, most notably hard bop drummer Art Blakely and pianist Thelonious Monk.
Though music styles have changed tremendously over the course of Griffin's long career, he hasn't wavered in his devotion to jazz. While many contemporary players inject traces of various genres into their sound, Griffin stays true to his roots.
"There's all this hip-hop that I don't go for at all," he told Davis. "I do what I do because that's what I am."
Here to promote his most recent album, Pisces, which was released last year, Griffin will arrive this week, and is sure to receive a warm if belated welcome.
Johnny Griffin will play three concerts at Goldstar Zappa in Tel Aviv, December 14, 15, and 16, Rehov Raoul Wallenberg 24, Ziv Towers, Ramat Hahayal. For tickets: (03) 649-9550 or (03) 604-5000.