...he has produced the quietest far-out album I've ever heard.
Is bassist Jeff Johnson the best-kept secret in American music? Could be. Toward a definitive answer, we submit Free, his startlingly original first CD as a leader.
Free, a live recording with a noirish, not-one-note-wasted aesthetic, takes jazz to a very deep place. Some musicians' work transcends music, exploring the underground river of emotions far at the back of imagination and desire, and it is in that sense that Jeff Johnson's creativity hearkens to Miles Davis. Listening to this CD is all but akin to a drug experience, as Jeff and two longtime bandmates, saxophonist Hans Teuber and drummer Billy Mintz, make time stand still with music which is more question than statement.
Johnson's trio swings hard, but let's call it a subterranean swing. Johnson, a "musician's musician" with a cavernously rich bass sound from the center of the universe, has a perfect foil in Teuber's puckish, quizzical alto sax, with drummer Mintz coloring their every feint. Or not. This music is all about flexibility and freedom. (Pianist Hal Galper, who has employed Jeff for years, nicknamed him "Free," both for style and philosophy.) For those wondering where the next great migration of jazz will take us after atonality and ethnic amalgamations, Jeff Johnson's music of soulful inner exploration may well open a few necessary, if invisible, doors.
1 Old Fellow (Hans Teuber)
2 Hi-Fly (Randy Weston)
3 Shadow Me (Teuber/Johnson/Mintz)
4 Moonlight Serenade (Miller/Parish)
5 Love and Beauty (Billy Mintz)
6 Chariots for Anthony (Jeff Johnson)
Produced by Jeff Johnson (Free)
Originally recorded live to digital 2-track for "Sonarchy" radio broadcast, at the Old Town Alehouse, Seattle, June 23, 1998
Mixed by Doug Haire for Jack Straw Productions, Seattle
Mastered by Mark Guenther at Seattle Disc Mastering, March 9, 1999
Cover Painting, "The Drowning Man" by Tad Britton
Layout & Design by John Bishop/OriginArts
Photo of Jeff Johnson by Dino DiStefano, June 1999
All Music Guide (Dave Nathan)
Recorded live at the Old Town Ale House in Seattle, WA, Jeff Johnson and his cohorts have fashioned almost an hour's worth of artistic modern music expertly played by these Northwest jazz artists. The play list is well crafted and balanced with four originals by the trio and one each of a jazz and a classic standard. This CD is a set of six cerebra ...
JazzTimes, May 2000 (Doug Ramsey)
Bassist Jeff Johnson is admired for his work with modern mainstream musicians like pianists Jessica Williams, Hal Galper and Jack Brownlow. Here, in a different milieu, he has produced the quietest far-out album I've ever heard. Johnson frees himself for unfettered explorations with soprano and tenor saxophonist Hans Teuber and drummer Billy Mintz. ...
JazzNow (Dave McElfresh)
In spite of the printed lineup info, this certainly doesn't feel like an effort by only three players. Check out the thick interactions between Johnson's bass and Teuber's saxophone on some of the cuts and see if your head doesn't register the heady dialogues as being the work of more than four arms. Johnson's a shadow boxer who doesn't support ...
All About Jazz (John Barrett, Jr.)
It's hard to be more spontaneous than this. A live show for radio broadcast, played without benefit of rehearsal. The numbers were called from the stage, many played for the first time. (Some had never been heard by their composers!) And one piece is totally improvised, existing only that moment, then captured on tape. Apt is the drowning man on th ...