Napoleon not only swings as hard as his musical heroes but matches them note-for-note when it comes to creative improvising.
While staying true to his roots as a guitarist deep in gratitude to Wes Montgomery and Grant Green, Randy Napoleon aspires to find new routes through the music and refine his already fully evolved voice. On Puppets, he teams with the prolific composer Gregg Hill, finding energy in Hill's quirky, out of the box melodies, and arranging them to keep the spirit of the tunes while amplifying Hill's intentions. He joins with longtime compatriots - three of the hardest swinging and creative voices in jazz, Rick Roe, Rodney Whitaker, and Quincy Davis - and features New York vocalist Aubrey Johnson on several Napoleon-penned lyrics. As his former employer Freddie Cole reminded him often, "It's not only how good you play, it's about how you present the music." Napoleon takes the advice to heart, continually swinging while looking to keep his audience surprised and inspired.
1. Andy's Lament 5:19
2. Fan-O-Gram 5:54
3. The Jazzdiddy Waltz 4:19
4. Lyrica 7:10
5. Moonscape 7:03
6. Puppets 7:28
7. Still Life with Tuba 6:28
8. The Unknown Ballade 6:20
9. Tone Colors 6:40
10. Truck Driver's Blues 3:33
11. Wide River 3:16
Compositions by Gregg Hill
Lyrics by Randy Napoleon (6,8,11), Gregg Hill (10)
Arranged by Randy Napoleon
Randy Napoleon - Guitar
Aubrey Johnson - Vocals
Seth Ebersole - Bass clarinet (5,6,7,8), Flute (3,4,5)
Rick Roe - Piano
Rodney Whitaker - Bass
Quincy Davis - Drums
Brandon Rose - bass (2)
Will Crandell - drums (2)
Produced by Gregg Hill & Randy Napoleon
Recorded, mixed & mastered by Corey De Rushia
at Troubadour Recording Studios, Lansing, Mi.
Recorded on June 28-29, 2021
Band member photos by Lynne Brown
Liner Notes by Michael Nastos
Cover design & layout by John Bishop
Take Effect (Tom Haugen)
Randy Napoleon sure does put an inimitable spin on the work Gregg Hill, where he employs vocals, many different instruments, and a versatile approach to jazz across these 11 diverse tracks. "Andy's Lament" starts the listen with warm vocal scatting from Aubrey Johnson, as crisp drumming from Quincy Davis and Napoleon's fluid guitar lines make a ...
Michigan News (Editor)
Randy Napoleon's new album Puppets. It is the latest collaboration with Napoleon and jazz musician Gregg Hill. "Puppet" is the title cut of the album of the same name and is a wonderful in-studio glimpse of how it was made. Recorded at Troubadour Recording Studio, Lansing Michigan Puppetry is a performing art that dates back to Egypt as far back ...
Jazz Weekly (George W Harris)
Known as the longtime sideman of Freddie Cole, guitarist Randy Napoleon stretches out a bit on this album with Aubrey Johnson/voc, Rick Roe/p, Rodney Whitaker-Brandon Rose/dr, Quincy Davis-Will Cranderl/dr and Seth Ebersole/wwinds, as he interprets the material of composer Gregg Hill. Johnson mixes wordless tones and lyrics, swinging through "Andy' ...
Jazz Guitar Today (Editor)
A musical depiction of puppets in 2022 is conjured up by Mid-Michigan composer Gregg Hill, and executed by guitarist Randy Napoleon, vocalist Aubrey Johnson, and a stellar all-star jazz ensemble.It is Randy's effort to continue his rise, in my opinion, as one of the truly premier players on his instrument anywhere. His dexterity, fluid ideas and co ...
Roots Music Report (Joe Ross)
Guitarist Randy Napoleon plays with precision and delicacy as he and his sidekicks present music from Michigan jazz composer Gregg Hill. Following their 2019 collaboration on Brothers, Napoleon's vision for this latest project was to team up with vocalist Aubrey Johnson for a sweetly blended sound. Napoleon emerged as the lyricist for "Puppets," " ...
Jazz da Gama (Raul Da Gama)
Randy Napoleon is not only one of the more admired guitarists today but he is also looked upon as a superb musician, much sought-after for his idiomatic interpretation of music. So it is hardly surprising that he would turn out one fine album of songs after the other. However, even by his own exacting standards this one – Puppets [The Music of Gr ...
Music Log Reviews (Michael Doherty)
This is an interesting album, presenting musical depictions of puppets, composed by Gregg Hill and arranged by guitarist Randy Napoleon, with vocal work by Aubrey Johnson. The album opens with "Andy's Lament," which features some sweet vocal work as it begins, before settling into a cool groove. Then it is Randy Napoleon's guitar that takes focus, ...
Jazz Journal (London) (Roger Fabrey)
Apart from his pleasingly accessible playing, redolent of Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and Kenny Burrell, the real secret weapon on the album is the prodigiously talented vocalist Aubrey Johnson. A teacher in the voice department at Berklee College of Music, she made her debut as leader with Unraveled (Outside in Music, 2020), which was received wit ...
The Jazz Word (Sylvannia Garutch)
Randy Napoleon has returned with a collective effort that is diverse and conveyed with an outstanding ensemble of talented, like-minded performers. The album centers around the music of composer Gregg Hill and is implemented by guitarist Randy Napoleon, vocalist Aubrey Johnson, and a stellar all-star jazz ensemble of Rodney Whitaker on bass, Quincy ...
Jazz Sensibilities (Jeff Becker)
Randy Napoleon teamed up with vocalist Aubrey Johnson and an ensemble of Rodney Whitaker on bass, Quincy Davis on drums, and Rick Roe on piano. Special guests include Seth Edbersole on bass clarinet (tracks 5, 6, 7 & 8) & flute 3, 4 & 5), Brandon Rose on bass (track 2), and Will Crandell on drums (track 2) to bring us his latest album called, Puppe ...