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Maurice Johnson: Peace Love & Jazz

James Nadal By

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Since forming his band in Oklahoma City in 1985, guitarist Maurice Johnson has carefully carved out a niche in the local jazz scene there and on his release Peace Love & Jazz, he displays the talent, tone, and technique to be a force to reckon with for years to come. The multi-talented Johnson is also a versatile composer, author, producer and a master luthier who designs and builds custom handcrafted archtop jazz guitars.

There is no mistaking Johnson comes out of the Wes Montgomery school of elegance, with just the right amount of George Benson eloquence thrown in for good measure. But he is very much his own man with a distinctive grace that floats around what he does not play, adding that sense of mystery to the compositions as they develop in due time. From the opening track "In and Out,"—with its soulful organ courtesy of Dominique Taplin- there is evidence that this was not a hurried production, and the accompanying musicians are vital to the textures and nuances Johnson is creating. "Hello My Brother," is a softer number before the Latin seasoned "A Taste of the Sun," picks up the pace with muted trumpets weaving around the percussion. They get back into a rhythmic flow on "The Flight to Houston" with a distinct Tex-Mex flavor.

The record offers a well balanced mix of groove oriented tracks as "In the City," and "AM Groove" where Johnson gets a chance to show some of his dazzling dexterity and virtuosity. There is also a fine sampling of the lighter side of his ability with the mellow "If You Stand Beside Me," "Some Wine and Conversation," and the final and longest track "Man," which evokes a calming sensation before leading to a pleasant and relaxing destination. Again, it is what is left out that makes this music so interesting and enjoyable.

In this age of self-indulgent musicians pumping out recordings with no regard to quality or direction, it is a welcome relief to come across an artist like Maurice Johnson who has come up by paying his dues and honing his skills to the point he even crafts his own guitars. The music on Peace Love & Jazz is both upbeat and laid back, proposing a little something for every mood, and like a sophisticated wine, it takes an acquired taste to bring out the finesse.

Track Listing: In and Out; Hello My Brother; A Taste of the Sun; If You Stand Beside Me; In the City; Let Me Touch Your Life; The Flight to Houston; Some Wine and Conversation; AM Groove; Man.

Personnel: Maurice Johnson: electric and acoustic guitars, guitar and bass synth; Walter Taylor III: drums; Dominique Taplin: keyboards, organ, electric bass; John Pappas: flute, trumpet, bari sax; Clifton Johnson drums; Josh Daniels: percussion; Steven Gunn: trombone; Phil Mitchell: upright bass; Gary Claredy: electric bass; John Harris: keyboards; Carl Moore: trumpet; Larry Banks: alto sax, flute; Rhyan “Spunky” Adams: alto sax.

Title: Peace Love & Jazz | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Jazz Drops Records

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