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J.J. Johnson: J.J. Inc.

J.J. Johnson is one of modern jazz’s great trombonists-if not the greatest-as he has shown since coming to prominence 50 years ago. As annotator/trombonist Steve Turre points out: “[J.J.] has range-both high and low, a huge sound, a flawless attack, dynamics, speed, swing and soul…” He’s heard here with his 1960 sextet which included such new talents as Cedar Walton, Freddie Hubbard (both of whom went on to greater fame with Art Blakey the following year) and Albert “Tootie” Heath. Tenorman Clifford Jordan and bassist Arthur Harper round out this powerhouse group.

Besides having prodigious playing abilities, Johnson is also a composer of note who wrote seven of the eight tunes. Not only is this music flawlessly played-thanks to the group’s having been able to work on it for eight months preceding its recording-but Johnson’s arrangements make it several steps above the usual head-solos-head format used by so many others. Three bonus tracks, including rousing versions of “Blue and Boogie,” “Turnpike” and a longer, unedited “Fatback” make this CD an even more vital purchase.

Originally Published