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Friday, July 18, 2014

Russ Johnson - Meeting Point (Relay, 2014) ****

New York trumpeter Russ Johnson composes music for improvisation with a tight rhythmic and structural backbone, or rather modern jazz with a free spirit. If you know his work with "Save Big", or his releases with "The Other Quartet", you will get an idea. This album is most certainly of the same quality of "Save Big", refined, balanced, with excellent sound quality and even more excellent playing. The band is Johnson on trumpet, Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Anton Hatwich on bass and Tim Daisy on drums. 

So, a solid foundation of prepared ideas, as a platform for the musicians to improvise. And the result is comparable to what I wrote earlier on Jason Ajemian's "A Way A Land Of Life", nothing less than the joy of jazz, and I mean 100% jazz in its purest form: pulse, openness, harmonic inventiveness, compelling themes, rhythmic complexities and improvisations, improvisations, improvisations, which are free and expressive yet with sufficient self-discipline to think about the overall coherence of the band's sound. Johnson also deliberately composed with the band's members in mind, because even if he takes often a lead role, the input of the three other band members to the overall sound is equally critical. 

Johnson is great, Stein is great, Hatwich is great and Daisy is great. They swing, they bop and they improvise, they do what you want them play, just for the fun of the rhythms and the solos, then they make sure you get to hear what you did not expect to hear, new sounds, inventive sonic and musical explorations, all called "Conversations", interspersed between the composed pieces, offering variation and contrast. 

Then the album ends with the long and magisterial "Half Full", one of the most beautiful things to be heard at the moment. 


Listen and download from Bandcamp