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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 some of these musicians. It's obvious who he had in mind when he penned Thelonious The Onliest and the focus of In Walked Wayne (starring the great tenor man himself) should be apparent to all jazz fans. Johnson, who never hogs the spotlight, turns in lovely solos on the classic Miles Davis/Bill Evans composition Blue In Green and Coltrane's Blue Train. Canadian pianist Renee Rosnes and soprano saxophonist Dan Faulk deserve mention here----they're terrific throughout. Where Johnson is all smooth and creamy, Ray Anderson's 'bone work is full of piss and vinegar. While Ray has certainly absorbed the entire history of jazz trombone, he has also greatly expanded its' range. His tone varies from a low-level, guttural growl to an almost trumpet-like high. Ray can play "in" as well as "out" — often within the same piece. On Funkorific he is joined by the soulful Amina Claudine Myers (Hammond organ, vocals), Jerome Harris (guitar), Lonnie Plaxico (bass) and Tommy Cambell (drums). They have produced a nine-song set brimming with adventurous good humour, the blues and a touch of New Orleans funk. While Anderson and company burn on the instrumental tracks, the four vocal offerings rarely rise above the level of half-baked, save for the mildly amusing Monkey Talk. So, take your pick--- the old dude or the fundance kid! Heroes **** Funkorific ***

Title: Heroes and Funkorific | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

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