Saturday, June 27, 2009

J. J. Johnson: The Benchmark

Jay Jay Johnson (a.k.a. J.J. Johnson; b. 1924 - d. 2001)

Widely known as one of the masters of the trombone along with his former co-leader Kai Winding, J. J. Johnson is the benchmark against which all trombone players are measured.

J. J. along with Kai gave the trombone a vogue-ish feel during their time together. Most people don't associate the trombone nowadays because so few use it in their bands (except in large ensembles). J. J. Johnson made it sound essential no matter what the setting (quartet, quintet, ensemble or orchestra). At times you would almost think you were listing to a saxophone.

There is no denying that J.J. Johnson is one of the most important musicians in jazz history. He practically has never made a bad record. Many jazz fans will point to the two Blue Note albums, The Eminent Vol. I and Vol. II as the J. J. Johnson albums with which to start. I would not disagree. And for those of you that enjoy soul/R&B, J. J. Johnson also did the soundtrack for the 70s classic "Across 110th Street" featuring vocals from Bobby Womack.

If you want to hear an unfashionable instrument sound so incredibly beautiful, these two albums are a must for your collection.

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