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Randy Johnston: Homage

Jim Santella By

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Randy Johnston: Homage Guitarist Randy Johnston pays homage to nine influential jazz artists with his 7th recording as leader. Johnston leads a strong quartet that has been augmented with four horns for this session. Rich Shemaria’s straight-ahead arrangements give the ensemble a full, big band sound without burying the individual contributions from each member. The leader’s fluid pick technique, seamless phrasing, and lyrical delivery make things flow gracefully from start to finish. The title of Johnston’s tune "Pat and Wes" offers a clue toward who is paid homage by this project; in this instance, for their influence on his performance and "ear." The program also includes compositions by George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Jimi Hendrix, Dexter Gordon and Warne Marsh.

Johnston’s rhythm section - pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Kenny Washington – stands out as one of the best in the business. To round out the program, each of the horn players has his turn in the spotlight. Everyone contributes value, and the leader appears out front with loose, lyrical improvisation. Nick Brignola solos on George Benson’s "The Cooker" and trades fours with Johnston; both of them come out smokin’. Brignola and trumpeter Jim Rotondi capture the spotlight on "Cedar’s Place," an homage to Cedar Walton. Saxophonist Eric Alexander’s tenor saxophone dresses out the slow ballad "Ruby" and Dexter Gordon’s "Society Red." His tenor tone stands apart as warm and dry, like one of those comfortable summer nights we love so much. Trombonist Wayne Coniglio offers a mellow solo spot on Kenny Burrell’s "Lyresto," a loping straight-ahead number with plenty of room for blues hues. "All or Nothing at All" is included in Johnston’s program as an homage to Frank Sinatra, while "Loco 47" serves as an homage to saxophonist Warne Marsh. The tune, which represents Marsh’s improvisation over "This Can’t Be Love," is presented in a pared-down format, leaving the guitarist alone with just bass and drums. An articulate artist with respect for lyrical tradition, Randy Johnston succeeds in honoring notable jazz building blocks through his latest adventure.


Title: Homage | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Verve Records


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