Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 15:53 UK

'Fastest sax player' Griffin dies

Johnny Griffin
Johnny Griffin was still performing right up to his death

Jazz saxophonist Johnny Griffin, who played with stars such as Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, has died aged 80 at his home in western France.

Griffin was found dead on Friday by his wife Miriam, just hours before he was due to give a concert, his agent said.

Once billed as "the world's fastest saxophonist", he had played regular concerts across Europe until his death.

He performed in the Riviera town of Hyeres on the Monday before his death, agent Helene Mandfredi said.

Born in Chicago in 1928, Griffin attended the same school as Nat King Cole and Dinah Washington.

After graduating, he toured with Lionel Hampton's big band before spending two years in the US army.

He built up his reputation with shows in Chicago and New York, and played with Monk and drummer Art Blakey in the late 1950s. His album with Coltrane and Blakey - A Blowing Session - remains one of his best-known works.

He moved to France in 1962 and lived in the Netherlands for a spell in the 1970s before returning to France and settling in the town of Mauprevoir, where he died, his agent said.

Griffin played shows at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London in May to mark his 80th birthday.

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