Jazz drummer Rayford Griffin is an adept studio musician as well as bandleader who has worked with such musical luminaries as saxophonist Gerald Albright, vocalist Will Downing, and percussionist Bill Summers. Born February 6, 1958, in Indianapolis, IN, Griffin gained his love of music and discipline to practice from his minister father and Howard University music major graduate mother. However, most of Griffin's early musical guidance came from the recorded legacy of his late uncle, trumpeter Clifford Brown. Specifically, it was the drumming of Art Blakey on many of Brown's records that first inspired Griffin to become a drummer. From eighth grade through high school, he studied percussion with Tom Akins, principle timpanist for the Indianapolis Symphony, and by his late teens Griffin had developed a keen technical ability with all aspects of drumming. This, combined with a steady diet of everything from Blue Note recordings and the jazz-rock fusion of Billy Cobham to Jimi Hendrix made Griffin an already accomplished performing musician.
Interestingly, one of his first high-school bands included future super-producers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Daryl Simmons. Eventually, Griffin attended Indiana State for one year where he won several music contests and left to join a local fusion group in 1977. A few years later, an audition for violinist Jean-Luc Ponty led to a six-year stint with the fusion star. Since then, Griffin has worked with a wide array of musicians in and out of the jazz idiom, including Dave Koz and Anita Baker, and has been a member of bassist Stanley Clarke's band. In 2000, a fall from a balcony left Griffin with serious spinal cord injuries. A subsequent reevaluation of his life during his long recovery precipitated the recording of his first solo album. Featuring guest appearances by saxophonist Branford Marsalis and others, the 2003 release Rebirth of the Cool also showcases Griffin singing. ~ Matt Collar
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