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MY BLUE NOTE OBSESSION

J.J. Johnson: The Eminent Jay Jay Johnson, Volumes 1 and 2 – Blue Note 1505 and 1506

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Think of jazz, and the trombone almost never comes to mind. Didn't used to be. In the beginning, every jazz band had a trombone. But that was the Dixieland era, and Dixieland bands aren't much in vogue anymore. (Unless you're a fan of HBO's Treme and you listen to Trombone Shorty. Sadly, not enough people do, or Treme would still be on the air.) Then came the big band era, and suddenly lots of trombones were the fashion, all in one band. Think Tommy Dorsey or Juan Tizol of the Duke Ellington band. And ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

J.J. Johnson & Kai Winding Quintet: Complete Fifties Studio Recordings

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The first thing that piqued my interest about Complete Fifties Studio Recordings (compiled from the Savoy, Prestige, Columbia, and Bethlehem labels) was the inclusion of a rare Mingus piece called “Reflections. When you get to track number six after traveling through the preceding tunes (including the delightful “Bernie's Tune ) you might utter “Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

The piece starts off with the lowest “F on arco bass, and then the first trombone plays a slightly disjunct and slightly dissonant line against it. The second trombone enters in the style of a canon but quickly the ...

BOOK REVIEWS

The Musical World Of J.J. Johnson

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By Joshua Berrett and Louis G. Bourgois III The Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 0810836483

J.J. Johnson is known to the listening public as a jazz trombonist who has repeatedly won the Downbeat and many other polls, who has played the instrument at super-rapid clips (a Philadelphia nightclub once billed him, Barnum and Bailey style, as “The Fastest Trombone Player Alive!"), and who, with the great Kai Winding, made the famous “J.J. and Kai" recordings showing that the trombone could indeed be a virtuoso instrument. A new and exciting book by Joshua Berrett and Louis Bourgois III ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

J.J. Johnson: The J.J. Johnson Memorial Album

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Is it possible to think of jazz trombone without the artistry of J.J. Johnson coming to mind? His death in 2001 brought closure to a career covering a half-century, and there are few major figures in bop/ mainstream jazz that didn't share concert billing with him. His recorded output graced a number of labels: Blue Note, Prestige, Concord, and Verve. In a perfect world, a career retrospective would be a multi-disc, multi-label affair. In this imperfect world, thank Fantasy Jazz for this single disc retrospective from its family of labels. Johnson's trombone style remained remarkably consistent throughout ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

J.J. Johnson: The Eminent J.J. Johnson Vol. 1

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Compared with the first appearance of previously released jazz albums in CD format, the second generation of jazz CD reissues represents sophisticated product: 24 bit remastering, updated liner notes, and glossy packaging--candy for jazz lovers. One in the most recent block of titles from Blue Note’s Rudy Van Gelder (RVG) edition reissue series, The Eminent J.J. Johnson, Volume One plays a variation on the reissue theme. Blue Note originally issued the songs on this session piecemeal as two separate albums. This disc presents for the first time in its entirety the 1953 session that comprises the original albums.

The set ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

J. J. Johnson: Pinnacles

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From the start of a decade, this tried to blend old faces with a new sound. The electric piano starts up; the sound flits from speaker to speaker in annoying fashion. The rhythm gets behind, Billy Higgins getting a firm hand on things. And then J.J. enters: dark and rich and full of confidence. He stutters his solo with short tight trumpet notes, then goes rumply with some guttural clusters. Tommy Flanagan goes quiet and cool, his electric stating the era, but with a calm that doesn’t quite fit the track. Joe Henderson gets it back with a growl and ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

J. J. Johnson and Ray Anderson: Heroes and Funkorific

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Many years ago, I played the trombone in my high-school band. Personally, I found it to be a rather awkward, unwieldy instrument. These two discs demonstrate that, in the hands of master musicians, the old 'bone is capable of great range and expressive versatility. Heroes and Funkorific are a study in contrasts between the legendary veteran Johnson and Anderson, the “young lion." J.J. Johnson is rightly credited with adapting bebop to the trombone. His warm tone has changed little over the years and he has appeared on hundreds of recordings with many of jazz's greatest players. Heroes pays tribute to ...



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