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May 2008

Ed Johnson & Novo Tempo
The Other Road
Cumulus Records

Weird, but this guy with the name Ed Johnson composes some of the finest Brazilian music in the world from his home base in Northern California. It just goes to show that the worldwide reach of the bossa nova style popularized by Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto and Baden Powell has never lessened and infiltrates all corners of the globe. The joyful and romantic strains of bossa-nova are what Johnson co-opts so well with his eight-piece Novo Tempo.

Johnson even possesses the Milton Nascimento/Ivan Lins sweet falsetto, which he showcases on original tunes like “Song for My Daughter,” “Behind the Fire” and “Katrina,” as well as on those mixing both English and Portuguese, including “Shipwrecked (Naufragado)” and “Chorar.” But Johnson’s real strength comes with his vocalese—no translation needed—especially when working in tandem with pianist Jennifer Scott on “Samba 2 Tom” and “Clean Up.” Although Johnson of course works the nylon string with lyrical ease for the most part, Scott Sorkin’s plugged-in accompaniment and Scott’s piano solo give tunes like “The Other Road” a delightful Metheny-esque touch.

Originally published in May 2008
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