Jeff Johnson

The Art of Falling

origin 82386

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MUSIC REVIEW BY , Cadance Magazine, September 2001

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I've listened to this CD five or six times, enjoying the music more & more each time, but finding it difficult to say just what makes this a special album. It could be the intriguing combination of Billy Mintz' economical style on the drum kit coupled with Jeff Johnson's animated bass parts. Then there's the ease with which pianist Randy Porter anticipates and feeds the solos by throaty tenor saxophonist Hans Teuber. Or maybe it's the way every member of the group is obviously listening very carefully and with scrupulous respect for the other performers. Whatever it is, Jeff Johnson's quartet breathes fresh life into the venerable tenor/piano/bass/drums format. The transparent and airy quality of these live-to-two-track recordings provides each instrument with it's own acoustic space in the mix, rendering the nuances of the ensemble's subtle interplay readily apparent. The overall effect is senuous and engaging, as the recording conveys the feeling of actual minds and bodies producing these sounds in real time. Five tunes are Johnson originals, and they fit in well with a pair of Henry Mancini compositions ("Slow Hot Wind," an effective introduction to the group, and a relaxed "Mr. Lucky") and one each by Wayne Shorter (a thoughtful and spare "Virgo") and Pat Martino (a tender "Portrait of Diana") that round out the program. None of these are overplayed, and Johnson and company succeed in making them new, by adopting a zen-like approach to staying in the moment. This quartet makes music which "says hello and goodbye in the same instant, never to return the same...," as Johnson puts it in his brief liner note. The Art of Falling is a simply wonderful disc, and it deserves the highest recommendation.






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