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Eddie Johnson: Love You Madly

Supposedly Duke Ellington tried to hire the now 78-year-old tenor player Eddie Johnson in the early l940s but Johnson turned him down because his boss, Louis Jordan, paid him more. At least Johnson’s included several tunes associated with Duke on this quartet CD: “I Love You Madly,” “Wanderlust,” “You Dirty Dog” and Cat Anderson’s “Trombonio-Bustoso-Issimo.” The album also includes standards and jazz standards (“Gravy Waltz,” “Whirly Bird”). Johnson has pianist John Young, bassist Eddie De Haas and drummer George Hughes in his band.

Whenever I hear that someone is a straightahead player, from now on I’m going to think of Johnson; he’s about as straightforward and non-flashy as they come. His style isn’t that much like anyone else’s although he does remind me of Ben Webster in some places and Lockjaw Davis on the up tempo selections. His big warm sound and economical, melodic solos indicate that Webster must’ve been his main influence.

It’s always good to hear Young, who, when he was with Andy Kirk in 1944, was one of the first pianists to play bop-tinged solos. On this CD he’s interestingly eccentric, now laying back, now rushing ahead of the beat. He uses a lot of Red Garland-like voicings.

Originally Published