Music education student records jazz album to overcome grief

Antonio “A.J.” Griffin has had to face many obstacles in life, and he has chosen to overcome them through music.

Griffin, who is in his fifth year at Lindenwood as a musical education major, released a jazz album last August called “Looking Back in Blindsight.”

The album, whose title is a variant of the phrase “looking back in hindsight,” as well as a reference to his night-blindness, has four songs, and they revolve around Griffin’s struggles to deal with his mother’s death in January 2016.

“The first one is ‘Traveling Light,’ and that’s me kind of letting go of the hurt feelings and emotions and everything that I felt when my mom died, and so it’s about me kind of going on my journey free, like I feel free,” Griffin said.

“The second one is ‘First Steps,’ and that’s me looking back on my mom, when it was just me and her, nobody else, and me taking my first steps in our relationship.”

When Griffin was involved with production, he found himself overwhelmed with emotion while reflecting on his mother. At the last minute, he decided to write another song, ‘They That Overcome,’ to express how he was trying to move on.

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Antonio “A.J.” Griffin practices with Lindenwood combo band on Tuesday Jan. 31 in the J. Scheidegger Center. Gram Tolish is on drums and Vinnie Guiffrida is on piano.
Photo by Madi Nolte

Griffin’s fourth song is “Blindsight,” which is the name of the group he recorded with. That song features every member of his band.

Griffin didn’t go solo with the recording and production of the music. Professor Adam Donohue, music production manager, coordinated a recording session and did the mixing. In the end, Donohue said the quality of the album exceeded his expectations.

Donohue believes Griffin has progressed superbly through his five years in college. When Griffin studied under Donohue, he wasn’t as refined as he would later become.

“It was very clear to me that he had a lot of motivation but didn’t necessarily know how to apply that motivation to becoming a better musician necessarily,” said Donohue. “Now it’s like we’ve developed his creative muscles.”

Griffin has had to move out of his musical comfort zone over the years. His preferred instrument is the piano, which he played in his album. However, his primary instrument is the saxophone.

Additionally, while “Looking Back in Blindsight” is a jazz album, Griffin’s favorite musical genre is gospel, which he still plays in church every Sunday.

“When I got here, I was dead-set on being a classical composer, writing for movies and things,” said Griffin. “But all the assignments [Donohue] had me doing, and because saxophone is my main instrument, when you play saxophone, you have to play jazz. So I think just taking lessons with him and him slowly putting that stuff into my head made me do jazz more than anything.”

“Looking Back in Blindsight” can be found on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.

Griffin plans to make another album in May, which will be called “Home.” The players in his band, all Lindenwood graduates, will be returning to play with him.

“It’s about everyone coming home and the good feelings you feel when you’re around people you like to hang out with,” he said.

Griffin’s night vision may be impaired, but his vision for his music appears as sharp as ever.

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