Star Dust & Beyond: A Tribute to Artie Shaw
Johnson finds himself in a peculiar position. He’s been around the big band scene for half a century, yet this marks the first big band recording of his own. The distinction lies in the title, Star Dust & Beyond. Since 1983, when Artie Shaw asked Johnson to lead the reorganized Shaw band, Johnson has been fronting a band and book not of his own choosing. Not quite a ghost band, Johnson’s was still spreading the Shaw gospel. This album is virtually a new sound. The only musical link to the Shaw cachet is “Star Dust,” where many of the familiar licks re-appear in a new guise, plus some hints on “In the Still of the Night,” “Grabtown Grapple” and “Anniversary Song.” Versatile arranger Bob Freedman has taken the band into the beyond. With the help of lead trumpeter Jay Daly and fine soloists like trombonist Chris Oberholtzer, guitarist Jon Wheatley, pianist Paul Odeh and flugelhornist Kerry MacKillop, the band will have its own personality as long as the amazing Johnson continues to sound like a swinger half his 82 years.