Master of the 'bone
From the Summer 2003 issue.
One 4 J: Paying Homage to J.J. Johnson
By Steve Turre
Telarc Records: 2003
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Trombonist Steve Turre has put together a 'bone-fest to honor one of his heroes, the late J.J. Johnson: a top-notch rhythm section and five trombones, playing in configurations ranging from two 'bone quintets to full-bodied four horn ensembles.
It's easy to forget, in light of his classic late-career outings like "Heroes" and "The Brass Orchestra," that the venerable Johnson started out back in the forties with Charlie Parker and the be-boppers. He was the man who brought the trombone previously relegated to playing simple bass lines in the pre-bop world into its prominence. His phrasing, fluidity, the supple yet complex approach were unprecedented, laying a foundation for generations of future trombonists including Steve Turre. And Joe Alessi, Steve Davis, Robin Eubanks, Andre Hayward and Douglas Purviance, who join him on the disc.
On "One 4 J" Turre has rounded up his fellow 'bone virtuosos to play several of J.J.'s classic songs, as well as a couple more dedicated to the man his own "One 4 J" and pianist Harold Mabern's "Mr. Johnson," as well as Cole Porter's "What is This Thing Called Love," one of J.J.'s favorite tunes.
Arranging for a trombone ensemble must be a challenge, but Turre was definitely up to it, with rich and subtle shadings in his blendings of the low-end voices. And he includes here a four-horn arrangement by Slide Hampton another trombone innovator of Johnson's"Lament," The Masters most famous tune. Finally, on "What Is This Thing Called Love", Turre used Johnson's own arrangement of the favorite.
The rhythm section Steve Scott (Sonny Rollins' band) on piano, Peter Washington, bass, and Victor Lewis, drums provide the perfect low-key accompaniment for this outing, and a bonus is thrown in: Renee Rosnes J.J.'s pianist for the last ten years of his career sits in on "Enigma."
"One 4 J" pays a fitting homage to the Trombone Master, showcasing his music and the rich sounds and harmonies of the big slide horn.
Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.