J.J. Johnson - Date in New York (Music CD)

Release Date: 26 November 2012
Artist: J.J. Johnson
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From the 1954 sessions done in New York City for the French Vogue label, issued in the U.S. on the Jazz Legacy imprint of Inner City Records in 1979, and back in print on an Inner City CD in 2009, this recording carries all the due prestige it deserves. A winner of the French Jazz Academy's best album of its time period, A Date in New York documents a one-time studio session organized by the fine French pianist Henri Renaud, a European equivalent of Wynton Kelly or Bill Evans. The stars on the date are vibraphonist Milt Jackson, tenor saxophonist Al Cohn on one half of the program, bassist Percy Heath, and ostensible "leader" trombonist J.J. Johnson, with the lesser-known drummer Charlie Smith in the caboose of this long-winded jazz train. There's little if any interplay between the main conspirators, as they play individual roles leading the melody lines and improvising on solos, and it's a program of standards save one jam vehicle "written" by Johnson. Despite the thrown-together blowing session aspect, the music is exceptionally performed, as you'd expect from these grand masters of mainstream jazz.
Everyone in the band takes his turn accordingly, with the masterful Johnson leading on his basic warm-up "Jay Jay's Blues" and the straight bop version of "Indiana," which was turned by Charlie Parker into "Donna Lee," but not here. Cohn pretty much plays second or third solos, his best and most individualistic playing cropping up after Heath's lead feature during "Out of Nowhere." It is Jackson who shines the brightest, as his specialty -- the lengthy ballad -- is where his vibes drip with unrequited emotion during "There's No You." Then again, Jackson can jam with the best, as proven on "I'll Remember April," then he steps back as Johnson and Cohn swagger and strut on their solos before all trade fours with Smith, while the vibist's contribution on "If I Had You" is energetic, inspiring the trombone and sax solos. Jackson plays piano in an illuminating, free-of-meter manner before settling into the steady melody of "Lullaby of the Leaves," and sings in a crooning, understated tone while on piano alongside Johnson's muted trombone during "The More I See You." Renaud is beyond a mere accompanist, in fact more the catalyst of the combo, stepping up on his composition "Jerry Old Man," comping with Jackson's vibes in an easy-swinging basic blues, and playing consistently interesting solos, last in line after his American all-star friends. Most of these tracks are long, making room for improvising and showcasing how these brilliant musicians were more than capable of stretching and making things up on the spot -- the essence of jazz. For those who enjoy bop-flavored jazz, this is an item that should be an essential purchase. ~ Michael G. Nastos
Release Date: 26 November 2012
Artist: J.J. Johnson

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Catalogue No: IC7007