"There should be some type of bridge built between contemporary jazz lovers and fans of Hip-Hop and R&B music," says international jazz saxophonist Joe Johnson. Well, while I think that bridge has pretty much been defined now by the likes of Kim Waters, Mike Phillips, and Jeff Lorber (witness the Unwrapped and Streetwize projects), Johnson places his indelible signature on this hybrid sensation that has swept the smooth jazz world by storm. Let’s examine this smooth character from Memphis, Tennessee, and his soulful, charismatic style, shall we?
Johnson touts among his early musical influences Charlie Parker, Hank Crawford, David Sanborn, Grover Washington, and Kirk Whalum. A young man in his mid-thirties, he has amassed an impressive resume and list of musical accomplishments that include opening national concerts for or sharing the stage with such luminaries as Aretha Franklin, Anita Baker, Sade, Vanessa Williams, Gerald Levert, KEM, Roy Ayers, Boney James, and Phil Perry. Impressive.
His latest release, The Afterparty, is a swaying groove that combines sharp, tight alto sax work with other horns to create melodic, textured, and alluring rhythms and hooks. One tune of note involves his clever manipulation of Earth, Wind & Fire’s melody and bass line from “Can’t Hide Love” to create his own “Guess Who Loves You More.” That tune is so strikingly creative. The horn arrangements here and elsewhere on this project are boldly expressive, as if arranged by someone with a great deal of well-deserved self-confidence. Clearly, Johnson is someone who is more than justified in his self-confidence. Selections like “Doing It Right,” ”Slow Jam,” “Find Myself in You,” and “Free Yourself” are but a small sampling of the “feel” Johnson sought—and found--on this album.
Take a moment and stroll through this vibrant fabric of sound. You will undoubtedly want to stick around for awhile, close your eyes or bob your head when and where appropriate, and allow the colors to just cascade around you as this masterful saxophonist works his magic on your aural senses. Deep down, you’ll know that this is where you want to be. It’s where all smooth jazzers want to be when the alto sax (or any other instrument for that matter) is played with such command...Posted by Ronald Jackson at February 3, 2009 8:32 PM