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Earl R. Johnson Jr.: Juicy (2008)

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Earl R. Johnson Jr.: Juicy How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Pianist Earl R. Johnson, Jr. espouses a highly rhythmic approach to contemporary jazz that keeps the bass line front and center, reverberates with hip-hop drum effects, swirls with keyboard authority and allows plenty of space for lyrical instrumental voices.

Johnson's piano serves as an anchor for the myriad scenes that he creates through original compositions. Reflecting contemporary R&B and smooth jazz themes, the program centers on melody and enjoys a healthy rhythmic character.

"Requiem" goes with solo piano to allow the Berklee grad to expose his elegance, "Getaway" and "Juicy" feature Johnson's piano melodies as floating clouds, and much of the album combines vocal themes as designs for specific impressions.

"Possibilities" combines spoken word with lovely vocal melodies, "Tasha's Way" sails romantically on placid waters through the vocal message of Niomisha Wilson, and "Full of Empty" allows a vocal discourse from Tim Owens to permeate. "412" reflects a scene of wandering travelers through melodic threads by guitarist Ricky Z, flutist Dawnn Norfleet, alto saxophonist Rodney Taylor and pianist Johnson. His ethereal piano melodies allow the session to cool frequently, while rhythms heat up on occasion and surrounding forces bring tension. Thus, Johnson forces a balance that keeps his session smooth but interesting, romantic but appealing, lyrical and highly rhythmic.

Track Listing: The Concept; 412; Unfinished Business; That Thang; Full of Empty; Juicy; Possibilities; Tasha

Personnel: Earl R. Johnson, Jr.: piano, keyboards, drum programming, vocals (5); Jervonny Collier, Mark A. Walker, Cornelius Mims: bass; Ricky Z, Tariq Akoni, David K. Scott, Darlene Moreno, Kathleen Dyson: guitars; Darrell Diaz: keyboards; Dawnn Norfleet: flute; Rodney Taylor: alto saxophone; Derrick Edmondson: tenor saxophone; William Artope: trumpet; Land Richards: drums; Kerry Griffin: percussion; Tony Moore: drum programming; Tim Owens: lead vocals (5); Donnell Spencer, Jr.: vocals (5); Solange Sheppy: spoken word (7); Shannon Pearson: vocals (7, 9); Niomisha Wilson: vocals (8).

Record Label: First Domain Records

Style: Hot Jazz


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