310

Howard Johnson's Gravity: Gravity!!!

Jim Santella By

Sign in to view read count
Howard Johnson's Gravity: Gravity!!!
Howard Johnson started his first tuba ensemble in New York City in 1968, named it Gravity a few years later, and recently released this, Gravity's first recording. Why the long delay? Because the tuba has its place in music: the rhythm, the pulse, the bottom harmony. But in the hands of 55-year-old Johnson and his five tuba-mates, plus rhythm section, the instrument becomes a melody-maker; with the easily-recognized themes of "Round Midnight," "Stolen Moments," and "Yesterdays," as well as other well-known jazz pieces like Don Pullen's "Big Alice" and Jackie McLean's "Appointment In Ghana," the tuba expresses as well as any other melodic voice.

A necessary staple when jazz was born, the tuba was replaced by the string bass about the same time that jazz began to appear as recordeds. It reemerged in the 1950s with melodic roles in recordings such as Miles Davis' "Birth Of The Cool" and later in the Gil Evans collaborations; in fact, five of Gravity's present tuba line-up worked in the Gil Evans Orchestra: Howard Johnson, Dave Bargeron, Joe Daley, Earl McIntyre, and Bob Stewart. The sixth tuba master is Carl Kleinsteuber, primarily a classical performer, who Johnson aptly describes in the liner notes as one of the best tuba virtuosos around.

Light on their feet, each of the tuba masters takes solo spots that swing hard show their individuality. On "Stolen Moments," Johnson uses the F tuba, which is much higher than the standard model and enables him to traverse the familiar melodic passages normally associated with Freddie Hubbard on Oliver Nelson's 1961 "Blues And The Abstract Truth" album. "Be No Evil" is a gospel-inspired piece composed by Johnson that recalls the familiar rhythm and swing of Ray Charles. Pianist Paul Shaffer introduces the piece with a stirring Gospel chorus, and the tuba ensemble backs leader Johnson on his "Give Me That Old Time Religion" kind of deep-voiced solo. Others who add variety to the recording include tubaist Marcus Rojas, tubaist Tom Malone, tubaist Nedra Johnson, electric guitarist George Wadenius, pianist James Williams, pianist Raymond Chew, bassist Melissa Slocum, bassist Bob Cranshaw, drummer Kenny Washington, drummer Kenwood Dennard, and percussionist Victor See Yuen. Recommended.

Personnel

Howard Johnson: tuba.

Album information

Title: Gravity!!! | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Duplexity
Duplexity
John Blum and Jackson Krall
Read Now
Now
Lafayette Gilchrist
Read 25 Years
25 Years
Edward Simon
Read Splatter
Splatter
Roscoe Mitchell
Read Then Now
Then Now
Matthew Shipp / Rob Brown
Read Free Hoops
Free Hoops
Sylvie Courvoisier Trio

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.