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Johnny Summers: Piano Sessions, Volume 2

Steve Bryant By

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Canada's contribution to jazz may not be as well documented as that of the United States, but our neighbors to the North have produced some fine players such as Oscar Peterson, Jane Bunnett, Diana Krall, and Renee Rosnes. Now add to that heralded group a young trumpet player by the name of Johnny Summers who has the talent, voice, and looks which could grant him the potential to become the next Chet Baker or John Pizzarelli. Summers has also paid his jazz dues. Having studied with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Wycliffe Gordon, Maria Schneider, and Jon Faddis. Summers' latest release is Piano Sessions Vol. 2, a recording which has already garnered the young trumpeter a Global Music Award in 2015 for Best Male Vocalist, as well as Best Album and New Release. What gives the date an air of uniqueness is that it is essentially a duet performance where Summers collaborated with veteran pianist Tommy Banks. The music is a tasty blend of original compositions penned by Summers as well as some classic standards and even one of Michael Jackson's pop hits from the 80's.

Summers kicks off things with one of his originals, "Ain't I Brilliant," a jaunty piece which displays the kind of humorous observations which marked the songs of Louis Jordan and Nat King Cole. As a matter of fact Summers' lyrics on other tunes like "You'll Never Work A Day In Your Life" and "If You Have to Ask" bring to mind the compositions of Dave Frishberg with their dry wit and sardonic outlook. Summers  also brings an original approach to other people's music as well. He turns the Michael Jackson hit "The Way You Make Me Feel" into a piece of bluesy swing while smashing the assumption held by older jazz players that the new Pop music isn't conducive for making new jazz standards. Meanwhile when Summers performs standards such as the Hoagy Carmichael classics "Stardust" and "Old Rockin Chair he adeptly switches between trumpet and vocals.

Another standout moment is the rarely recorded theme song from "The Long Hot Summer" where Summers really channels Baker. Summers even throws in some N'awlins funk on the rousing "If I Could Be" which brings to mind Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. He evens tosses in some tasty clarinet work courtesy of Eric Allison.

What really makes this album shine, though, is the interplay between Summers and Tommy Banks. Each tune becomes an intimate conversation between two old friends where they end up finishing each other's sentences. Overall Piano Sessions, Volume 2 is a solid showcase of Summers' prodigious talents and should put him in line to be a breakout performer.

Track Listing: Ain't I Brilliant; The Way You Make Me Feel; You'll Never Work a Day In Your Life; Star Dust; Outta My Mind; Rockin Chair; If You Have to Askack; Free Since I Met You; Blues In The Night; You're The One; Moonglow; So Much In Love; If I Could Be;The Long Hot Summer.

Personnel: Johnny Summers: Trumpet; Tommy Banks: Piano; Kodi Hutchinson: Bass, tracks 3, 10; Brendan McElroy: Bass, tracks 5,9; Jeremy Brown: tenor saxophone, tracks 5, 9; Eric Allison: tenor saxophone, track 9, clarinet, track 13.

Title: Piano Sessions, Volume 2 | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Nu Jazz Records

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