Somewhat of a recluse, bassist Marc Johnson only comes out of hiding every five years or so. But when he does, it's usually to give us another nugget of inestimable value, his albums always proving to be an adventure with a healthy mix of tradition and forward-thinking originality. A veteran of one of pianist Bill Evans' last trios from the '80s, Johnson is a virtuoso artist with far-ranging tastes that have taken his own musical pursuits to many different lands. There's been the Eastern mysticism of Right Brain Patrol
(1992) and the folksy nostalgia of Sound of Summer Running
, a 1998 classic that was his most recent offering.
Shades of Jade proves to be somewhat of a departure. Johnson has included many aspects of his personality, going for a multifaceted recital that speaks in many grooves and offers an ensemble chemistry second to none. Both saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist John Scofield have worked together under the latter's leadership, while Scofield was also in integral part of Johnson's brilliant, if short-lived, group Bass Desires. Drummer Joey Baron's history with Johnson includes playing an important role on Sound of Summer Running.
Not your typical ECM album, Shades of Jade balances beautiful moments of retrospection, as in the case of pianist Eliane Elias' "Aparaceu, with more intense numbers. Based on Wayne Shorter's iconic line, "Blue Nefertiti is buoyed by Barron's explosive punctuations and "Raise dishes up a gospel mood in waltz time with Lovano in peak form. Equally worthwhile are "All Yours and "Don't Ask of Me, features for Johnson's own honeyed tones.
Personnel: Joe Lovano: saxophone; John Scofield: guitar; Eliane Elias: piano; Marc Johnson: bass; Joey
Baron: drums; Alain Mallet: organ.