The appetite for evolving performance practices in Bach’s St Matthew Passion appears undiminished as we have gradually shifted, over the generations, from larger to smaller ensembles and also towards a greater dramatic understanding of the implications of Bach’s ambitious ‘stereophonic’ double choir and orchestra choreography.
Trombonist J.J. Johnson, 64 at the time of Quintergy, is heard in top form on this Live at the Village Vanguard set. His quintet, which includes Ralph Moore on tenor and soprano, pianist Stanley Cowell, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Victor Lewis, is perfectly suited to interpret the spirited set of advanced bop. Highlights include Johnson's feature on "You've Changed," "Coppin' the Bop," "Lament" and his unaccompanied playing on "It's All Right with Me." Excellent music. Another Antilles CD, Standards, comes from the same sessions.
Reissue with the latest 2015 remastering. Comes with liner notes. Nicely sharp sounds from the great JJ Johnson – a set that has the trombonist really honing his edge on a host of tight, short tracks – with a vibe that almost recalls his initial bop recordings on Blue Note and Prestige! The style here is a bit more sophisticated – definitely with an ear towards the modern directions that JJ was exploring in the 50s – but the sound is also nicely spontaneous, with more focus on improvisation between group members than larger arrangements – quite nice, given that the group features excellent tenor from Bobby Jaspar on tenor – and either Tommy Flanagan or Hank Jones on piano, Percy Heath or Wilbur Little on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums. Tracks are short, and titles include "Overdrive", "Cube Steak", "Chasin The Bird", and "Solar".
Verve 60th Anniversary Rare Albums SHM-CD Reissue Series. Reissue with SHM-CD format. This is one of the more obscure J.J. Johnson LPs. On six of the ten songs, the great trombonist is joined by four others, while the remaining four tracks (the main reasons to search for this album) feature him in a quartet with pianist Hank Jones, bassist Richard Davis and drummer Walter Perkins. Johnson's writing on the larger group pieces lifts the material, which is all taken from Broadway shows, while his playing on the quartet tracks is up to his usual level. Some of the songs are now forgotten, but "My Favorite Things," "Make Someone Happy" and "Put on a Happy Face" are exceptions. This album has some good music, but it will be very difficult to find.
Reissue with the latest 2015 remastering. Comes with liner notes. One of the hippest, hardest albums that trombonist JJ Johnson ever cut for Columbia – a session we'd rank right up there with his amazing JJ Inc record, and like that one a really cooking hardbop record that maybe even rivals the best on Blue Note and Prestige at the time! As with that gem, the strength here is really the group – not just tremendous trombone from JJ, but great work from Nat Adderley on trumpet, Bobby Jaspar on tenor and flute, Cedar Walton on piano, Spanky DeBrest on bass, and Albert Heath on drums – all working with a soaring, soulful energy that's a lot more hardbop heavy than you might expect from JJ Johnson on some of his other projects for the label.
Reissue with the latest remastering. Comes with liner notes. One of JJ's best from the late 50s – a tightly crackling hardbop set, recorded very much in the manner of his classic JJ Inc album! The sound here is a bit more compact overall – with some shorter tracks that really allow Johnson to display his keen sense of economy on his horn, while working in a burning mode that recalls some of his best bop sides from the early years – particularly his work on Blue Note.
Reissue with the latest 2015 DSD remastering. Comes with liner notes. Not J.J. Johnson's initial public offering by any means, First Place was done with only a quartet in 1957 for Columbia Records, where other efforts by the legendary jazz trombonist were set in a larger ensemble format. Long out of print, this is now on CD with bonus tracks from 1954 featuring Charles Mingus. Playing standards and originals, Johnson assembled a mighty band with pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Paul Chambers, and especially on-fire drummer Max Roach, a group you'd be hard-pressed to top.