Leaving his conch shells — and more offbeat ideas — home this time, Steve Turre’s motive for this release was to honor the fountainhead of bop (and thus, modern jazz) trombone, J.J. Johnson, who had tragically taken his own life in 2001 in the face of a terminal illness. In doing so, Turre loads his front line with nothing but trombones — as many as six, but usually fewer. Besides himself, the other trombonists on the album are Robin Eubanks, Steve Davis, Andre Hayward, Douglas Purviance, and New York Philharmonic principal trombonist Joe Alessi (who also plays good jazz). It’s a fairly conservative recording by Turre’s standards, with an emphasis mostly on the straight-ahead bop that Johnson championed. Indeed, many of the duo-trombone charts sound like latter-day echoes of the famous K and J.J. (Kai Winding/J.J. Johnson) records of the 1950s and ’60s. But there are, thankfully, exceptions to the pattern as the disc unfolds — which is only right since Johnson himself displayed an experimental streak away from bop now and then. “Mr. Johnson,” penned by Harold Mabern when he was Lee Morgan’s pianist and not unrelated to Morgan’s own “Mr. Kenyatta,” switches to a modal vamp; “Kelo” is treated to a mild yet unmistakable funk backbeat; and “Wee Dot” is a blues jam with a difference, modulating up the scale in five different keys just to give everyone a challenge. Turre also borrows Slide Hampton’s full-sounding, infinitely subtle four-trombone chart of “Lament” and adds Senegalese percussionist Abdou Mboup to drive “Minor Blues.” Ultimately it is Turre who makes the most individual impression among the soloists, particularly in his quirkier moods on plunger (“Kelo”) and with a Harmon mute (“El Camino Real”). Pianist Stephen Scott, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Victor Lewis comprise the standard-issue rhythm section. Turre’s liner notes for each track are so detailed — a virtual play-by-play — that you almost don’t have to hear the CD in order to know what’s on it. But do hear it anyway. – Richard S. Ginellmore »
One 4 J
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