J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding J & K: Betwixt & Between
Ever take a peek at the mountain of records being auctioned off at any one time on ebay? It really puts into perspective the idea that even with the deluge of CD reissues that flooded the market during the past ten years, there's still an abundance of material that has yet to see a new dawning. And what has happened is that an audience of six or seven will enjoy certain albums, while the rest of us either vigilantly look for clean copies or are oblivious to the fact that those albums even exist. Each month, this column will put the spotlight on a lost trinket of vinyl euphoria, with the idea of spreading the word about the merits of a particular release. More importantly, it's hoped that dialogue and momentum will be created that could lead to the well-paved trail of reissue bliss.
We get started with one of several items that have been lost due to corporate restructuring. When the Verve Music Group consolidated its holdings of such major labels as Verve, Mercury, Impulse, GRP, A&M, and several other smaller concerns, the vaults literally started to bulge at the seams. Sure, it's great to have such a breath of musical history at your fingertips, but this also means that it's easy to forget what you really have on your hands.
In the late '60s, producer Creed Taylor was interested in starting his own production company and Herb Alpert (who had started A&M Records not but a few years prior) was obliged to offer Taylor a subsidiary, which would become the stepping-stone that led to the formation of CTI Records. Of the 27 original releases under the A&M/CTI banner, most have been reissued and remain viable titles today, most notably Antonio Carlos Jobim's Wave and a trio of Wes Montgomery releases. However, there are several other albums (not to mention a few unreleased sessions from 1969) that have not been so fortunate and their time spent in purgatory has been unduly extended.
One of these neglected titles features the trombones of J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding. J & K: Betwixt & Between (note that 'J' stands for J.J. Johnson and that 'K' stands for correct pronunciation of Winding's first name) is the second of three dates that this duo would cut for Taylor and it's the most intriguing of the lot, bristling with a creative energy that will serve not only jazz followers but also those into this whole lounge music scene.
The preface is very simple. Take a very hip selection of tunes (Roger Kellaway's "Just a Funky Old Vegetable Bin" gets the award for the trendiest title) and in between each track insert a "transitional" piece, thus the album's title. These brief snippets arranged for a brass ensemble include Bach pieces and two Winding originals, with each one sounding positively baroque by intent. The meat of the album comes in the form of Edu Lobo's "Casa Forte" and Jobim's "Mojave," the former buoyed tremendously by Airto's drumming and the latter given a quirky flavor by Roger Kellaway's use of clavinette. Also memorable are Joe Beck's stinging lines, especially on the charming "Don't Go Love, Don't Go."
Both Johnson and Winding are responsible for the arrangements on this unique set that is simply beyond category. Rudy Van Gelder's luminous engineering and Pete Turner's cover shot add to the overall impact of what has to be an oddity among the catalogs of both trombone men. Still, it should be heard by a new generation. And while we're at it, the same goes for Stonebone , the last of the duo's triptych and an item so rare that you can count the number of people who really have heard it on two hands.