249

J. J. Johnson: Pinnacles

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
From the start of a decade, this tried to blend old faces with a new sound. The electric piano starts up; the sound flits from speaker to speaker in annoying fashion. The rhythm gets behind, Billy Higgins getting a firm hand on things. And then J.J. enters: dark and rich and full of confidence. He stutters his solo with short tight trumpet notes, then goes rumply with some guttural clusters. Tommy Flanagan goes quiet and cool, his electric stating the era, but with a calm that doesn’t quite fit the track. Joe Henderson gets it back with a growl and the same tone he used on Silver’s “Que Pasa”. He shouts little phrases, goes upward, and proclaims his toughness as Higgins pounds home.

Without pause we find ourselves at the beginning of “Deak”, a sly blues with warmer tone than the opener. Flanagan’s comping (on grand piano) is great as expected, and Ron Carter slides more than J.J. on his tuneful bit. Oscar Brashear flutters that trumpet, with a bit of “Blues in the Night”. There’s a great moment where Oscar shouts, and Carter’s bass seems to melt! It’s the good old days again – emphasis on the “good”.

“Cannonball Junction” is a funky place, Carter loaded with electronic gimmicks, the drums hot, the theme modern. Henderson takes the stage with a lonely sound – a little gravel and a lot of feeling. It’s a classic sound – and here Carter seems out of place. Joe gets more modern with fast stacatto and a hint of multiphonics. As on all of these, not every horn gets a solo – this adds variety, and intensity to the solos you do get. Given the focus, Henderson takes it with gusto, and his effort makes you glad you went to the Junction.

“Pinnacles” opens with a hard tone, and Flanagan’s delicate probing. Here he’s in his element; it makes you wish the keyboards stayed home. The voicings get lush, the chords ring happy, and it’s time for J.J. He smiles as he plays this, a lot of stabbing notes and a little bit of rasp. The edge belongs to Henderson; there’s a buzz in his horn and we catch it as he blows a whirlwind of notes. The title fits: this is the peak for Henderson and Flanagan.

“See See Rider” is the title, but this sounds more like “All Blues” than Ma Rainey. Flanagan keeps the resemblance going as J.J. gets a buttery solo. Brashear is on target, rolling the notes and hitting ‘em high. It’s his best moment, with Flanagan not far behind. “Mr. Clean” brings back the electronics (including Carter’s fuzztone, a very acquired taste.) This is deep ‘Seventies funk, with block horns and lots of percussion. It’s also pretty generic – these guys are more at home playing jazz, and that’s what they should be playing. Brashear whoops it up, breaking free as the bongos get hot. It’s a high seamless squeal with a nervous edge; it brings life to the number. His is the only solo, and his performance makes it worth hearing. It’s not the best way to hear the album, but after reaching “Pinnacles”, where does one go?

| Record Label: Fantasy Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read United CD/LP/Track Review United
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 23, 2017
Read Chromola CD/LP/Track Review Chromola
by John Eyles
Published: March 23, 2017
Read Satin Doll – A Tribute to Billy Strayhorn CD/LP/Track Review Satin Doll – A Tribute to Billy Strayhorn
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 23, 2017
Read Nature City CD/LP/Track Review Nature City
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 23, 2017
Read Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin CD/LP/Track Review Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 23, 2017
Read This Is The Uplifting Part CD/LP/Track Review This Is The Uplifting Part
by Karl Ackermann
Published: March 22, 2017
Read "Arrhythmia" CD/LP/Track Review Arrhythmia
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 25, 2016
Read "Andando el Tiempo" CD/LP/Track Review Andando el Tiempo
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 26, 2016
Read "Live in Tokyo" CD/LP/Track Review Live in Tokyo
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 18, 2016
Read "Peace" CD/LP/Track Review Peace
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 18, 2017
Read "Free World Music" CD/LP/Track Review Free World Music
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 31, 2016
Read "Still" CD/LP/Track Review Still
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: DOT TIME RECORDS | BUT IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!