Pianist Earl R. Johnson, Jr. espouses a highly rhythmic approach to contemporary jazz that keeps the bass line front and center, reverberates with hip-hop drum effects, swirls with keyboard authority and allows plenty of space for lyrical instrumental voices.
Johnson's piano serves as an anchor for the myriad scenes that he creates through original compositions. Reflecting contemporary R&B and smooth jazz themes, the program centers on melody and enjoys a healthy rhythmic character.
"Requiem" goes with solo piano to allow the Berklee grad to expose his elegance, "Getaway" and "Juicy" feature Johnson's piano melodies as floating clouds, and much of the album combines vocal themes as designs for specific impressions.
"Possibilities" combines spoken word with lovely vocal melodies, "Tasha's Way" sails romantically on placid waters through the vocal message of Niomisha Wilson, and "Full of Empty" allows a vocal discourse from Tim Owens to permeate. "412" reflects a scene of wandering travelers through melodic threads by guitarist Ricky Z, flutist Dawnn Norfleet, alto saxophonist Rodney Taylor and pianist Johnson. His ethereal piano melodies allow the session to cool frequently, while rhythms heat up on occasion and surrounding forces bring tension. Thus, Johnson forces a balance that keeps his session smooth but interesting, romantic but appealing, lyrical and highly rhythmic.
Track Listing: The Concept; 412; Unfinished Business; That Thang; Full of Empty; Juicy;
Personnel: Earl R. Johnson, Jr.: piano, keyboards, drum programming, vocals (5);
Jervonny Collier, Mark A. Walker, Cornelius Mims: bass; Ricky Z, Tariq
Akoni, David K. Scott, Darlene Moreno, Kathleen Dyson: guitars;
Darrell Diaz: keyboards; Dawnn Norfleet: flute; Rodney Taylor: alto
saxophone; Derrick Edmondson: tenor saxophone; William Artope:
trumpet; Land Richards: drums; Kerry Griffin: percussion; Tony Moore:
drum programming; Tim Owens: lead vocals (5); Donnell Spencer, Jr.:
vocals (5); Solange Sheppy: spoken word (7); Shannon Pearson: vocals
(7, 9); Niomisha Wilson: vocals (8).
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.