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January/February 2003

Randy Johnston
Hit and Run
HighNote Records

Straightahead jazzer Randy Johnston swings with the best of them, witnessed by his performances on Hit & Run (HighNote) with pianist Bruce Barth, drummer Grady Tate, bassist Nat Reeves and vibist Joe Locke. Dig Johnston's work on his own "Down Time," a Montgomery Brothers-like groover that features a sleek, fluent guitar solo rife with bluesy licks, logical lines, and slippery glissandos that collectively set up an equally exceptional exploration by Locke. In addition to four originals, Johnston covers several standards of which the Victor Young ballad "When I Fall in Love" provides a perfect showcase for his melodic sensibilities. And he casts the Beatles' "Things We Said Today" in a Cuban jazz setting reminiscent of some of the best of Wes Montgomery's post-Riverside work.

In contrast to the ensemble performances, Johnston plays two solos: His reading of "Here's That Rainy Day" isn't up to the level of Joe Pass, but he does do a nice job of reharmonizing the melody, and his own "For the King" is a hip, mini-Motown number with some soulful moments that bring Hit & Run's fine guitar work to a conclusion.

Originally published in January/February 2003
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