273

Johnny Smith: The Sound Of The Johnny Smith Guitar

Mike Neely By

Sign in to view read count
Johnny Smith: The Sound Of The Johnny Smith Guitar A half-century after Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, and Bud Powell made names for themselves in the world of jazz, it is more than likely that if these three giants somehow returned to play in New York City they would still be at the very top of the heap among their fellow musicians. A similar claim could be made for another musician, Johnny Smith, who is barely known except among jazz guitar aficionados.



Smith played most of his professional life in the studios of Manhattan, rarely recording his own sessions, and when he did record he tended to play in a low-key, intense style that demanded sustained attention to the nuances of long beautifully developed solo lines. His recordings still require that quality of attention along with repeated listening to fully grasp the complexity and depth of what is transpiring. Johnny Smith was never destined for popularity.



The Sound Of The Johnny Smith Guitar is a reissue (1960/1961) of the guitar master fronting two excellent quartets. The first of these two Roost sessions includes well-known pianist Hank Jones, bassist George Duvivier, and drummer Ed Shaughnessy. Although the second session does not have the same level of marquee names, the performance is nearly as good with pianist Bob Pancoast, bassist George Roumanis, and drummer Mousey Alexander. On both sessions the pianists are superb accompanists for Smith and subtle soloists who inspire and nudge the guitarist along. Both drummers keep their touch light and lively, with the bassists playing traditional supportive roles. Although Smith was a master of a wide range of styles, he usually recorded in the swing to bebop range with a choice of standards.



Throughout these two sessions the guitar is the main focus of the music, retaining the responsibility for the bulk of the solo work. Smith consistently rises to the occasion. His technique and confidence are such that it sounds as if his playing of the most complex, fast paced solo line is no more challenging than anything else. If you listen carefully, it is sometimes disconcerting how, in his casual, low key way, Smith apparently never strains. Each note has a full-bodied resonance that you'd expect from medium and ballad tempo playing. In addition, his shifts in tempo and dynamics within his solos are precise and emotionally acute. In short, his mastery of the demands of the instrument is simply beyond what most other name jazz guitarists could or can manage. Unhurried, confident, and of a temperament that wasn't inclined to draw attention to himself, Johnny Smith was the "real deal, and this recording is as good a single CD introduction to the lyrical master as one could hope for.


Track Listing: Come Rain Or Come Shine; Gypsy In My Soul; Embraceable You; Misty; As Long As Theres Music; Round Midnight; This Cant Be Love; Blues Chorale; Prelude; I Got It Bad (And That Aint Good); Lets Fall In Love; I Cant Get Started; Some Of These Days; You Took Advantage Of Me; Over The Rainbow; Out Of Nowhere; Prelude To A Kiss; Un Poco Loco; Hippo The Sentimental Hippy; Its You Or No One.

Personnel: Johnny Smith: guitar; Hank Jones: piano (1-9); George Duvivier: bass (1-9); Ed Shaughnessy: drums (1-9); Bob Pancoast: piano (10-20); George Roumanis: bass (10-20); Mousey Alexander: drums (10-20).

Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Roulette Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read A Dark and Stormy Day CD/LP/Track Review A Dark and Stormy Day
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Pocono Git-Down CD/LP/Track Review Pocono Git-Down
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Rímur CD/LP/Track Review Rímur
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Schönbrunn CD/LP/Track Review Schönbrunn
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 1, 2017
Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read "Sharpener" CD/LP/Track Review Sharpener
by Nick Davies
Published: December 21, 2016
Read "TriAngular Bent" CD/LP/Track Review TriAngular Bent
by Dave Wayne
Published: September 22, 2016
Read "Live At Blues Alley" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Blues Alley
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "The Volume Surrounding the Task" CD/LP/Track Review The Volume Surrounding the Task
by John Eyles
Published: July 6, 2016
Read "Books On Tape, Vol. 2 - Standard Edition" CD/LP/Track Review Books On Tape, Vol. 2 - Standard Edition
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 17, 2016
Read "Festen" CD/LP/Track Review Festen
by John Sharpe
Published: November 12, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET 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!

Buy it!