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