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Jeff Johnson: Near Earth

Dan McClenaghan By

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The trio format without a chording instrument (a guitar or keyboard) tends to loosen the atmosphere, giving the music a more fluid feel. Bassist Jeff Johnson, joined by saxophonist Hans Teuber and drummer Tad Britton, achieves a compelling chamber-like fluidity on Near Earth.

Teuber's tenor saxophone approach here has a clean, clear, bracingly cool feel on its interplay with with Johnson's round bass lines and the intricate textures from Britton's drum kit. He floats up in the higher register mostly, vibratoless, with a style that feels like a marriage of Lee Konitz and Stan Getz, sometimes sounding almost as though he's playing a clarinet, one with a slight metallic bite to it.

The set contains a handful of ruminative group improvisations, all of them melodic and beautifully accessible, as well as covers of a couple of pop tunes, Johnny Mercer's "Dream" and Distal/Reardon's "The Good Life," as well as three Johnson originals.

The overall feeling with Near Earth is one of a soothingly understated calm, a salubrious low-key spirituality full of cool, appealing melodies riding along on a floating momentum. Even when they kick up the tempo, as on "Quickening," the music maintains a crystalline, hour-after-the-rainstorm focus.

Give it your full attention; it will repay you.

Track Listing: Three Rivers, Dream, Zen, Train of Thought, Traditional Abstract, The Good Life, Quickening, Gaia, Dances, Earthset

Personnel: Jeff Johnson--bass; Hans Teuber--tenor saxophone; Tad Britton--drums

Title: Near Earth | Year Released: 2004


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