My Songlines – Michael Griffin

Photo by Aaron Blakey

To say that Michael Griffin is immersed in the classic jazz tradition would be an understatement. The fiery saxophonist, who made it all the way from Sydney to the Thelonious Monk Institute Finals a couple of years ago, is the definition of a ‘keeper of the flame’ and flame is too timid a word to describe what comes out of his sax, earning praise from legends like Jimmy Heath, who predicted a bright future for this young hard-swinging bopper. The future of course is unclear, uncertain and unpredictable for all of us. What matters is the present and at present, Michael Griffin is on a mini-tour, promising good times to people who come to see his shows. As he sets to hit the road, he shares the music that matters to him.

What was the first album or single that you ever acquired?

Hard to say. My first Jazz album was a Charlie Parker Compilation I bought when I was about 12 or 13.

Before that, I used to be really into John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Elvis, The Blues Brothers so probably something from them.

What was the most recent album or track that you purchased?

‘The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson’ which features Clifford Brown and Jimmy Heath.

Which album should be on everyone’s collection?

‘Unexpected Greeting’, of course, haha. ‘Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane’, the studio album they made. I love the Carnegie Hall concert they did, however my favourite recording of them is the studio album. It has stuck with me since i was about 13. My favourite Coltrane solos, for sure.


Which song reminds you of the best concert you’ve ever attended?

Any version of ‘They Say it’s Wonderful’. I first heard that song performed by Sonny Rollins at the Opera House in 2008. It has since become my favourite song.

Which song reminds you of your favourite journey?

One of my favourite compositions is ‘The Drive’ by Oliver Nelson. Listening to it, I can understand why he called it that. It really does sound like driving somewhere. I can picture him sitting in the back seat writing out the song as it came to him.

Which song reminds you of your most important rite of passage?

Duke Ellington’s ‘Don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’.

Which song best describes your relationship with your loved ones?

‘I will always love you’ – Whitney Houston

Which song best encapsulates your idea of jazz?

‘Blue Monk’

If your life was to become a movie,

…which song would be heard on the opening credits?

‘Unexpected Greeting’


…which would be on the end credits?

Probably ‘Unexpected Greeting’ again. That is kind of my theme.

…which would be on the love scene?

‘They say it’s wonderful’ again, it’s my favourite song.

Which song do you wish you had written yourself?

‘Bess, you is my woman now’ from ‘Porgy and Bess’. That is one of the best works ever.

Which song do you wish had been written about you?

‘Send in the clowns’

Which song best describes your current state of mind?

‘Solitude’ by Ellington


See Michael Griffin live