Online since August 2002

Master of the 'bone

From the Summer 2003 issue.

One 4 J: Paying Homage to J.J. Johnson
One 4 J: Paying Homage to J.J. Johnson
By Steve Turre

Telarc Records: 2003

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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.

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