June 29, 2006


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Jonah Smith, Jonah Smith
Relix Records, 2006

Modern big-band jazz fusion welded tight with the help of whiz-bang chops from top-dog cohorts such as Curtis Fuller on trombone, the piano blitzes of Cedar Walton, and Wynton Marsalis chipping in with his trumpet. Tutored by such drum-kit heavyweights as Elvin Jones and Art Blakey, the multi-talented Johnson has been around since the ’70s, recently finding himself the object of affection in the eyes of rogue acid jazz and hip-hop fans, which should come as no great shock in light of Johnson’s progressive approach. There’s no arguing with an album like this; high-grade all the way, it’s comparable to the Yellowjackets in their prime, whether walking a be-bop high-wire (“Shaw Nuff”), dazzling the Montreax Jazz Festival with warp-speed fusion (“Morgan”) or cutting up some prototypical jazz (“I Didn’t Know What,” an original of Johnson’s). Outro track “Fly Me to the Moon” highlights Johnson’s knack for baritone crooning, a surprise sweet spot that compels the listener to leave the CD in for another go. A-

Eric Saeger

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