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Marc Johnson: Shades of Jade

Marc Johnson doesn’t take a bass solo on Shades of Jade until “Snow,” track six of the 10-song album. Until then, the emphasis stays on tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarist John Scofield and pianist Eliane Elias, the last serving as the album’s coproducer (with Manfred Eicher) and author or coauthor of half the album. In fact, Elias could almost be the de facto leader of the session.

But regardless of whose name comes first on the cover, everyone matches wits on “Ton Sur Ton,” with tenor and guitar harmonizing deftly on the melody. The front end of the disc finds the group in a gentle mood that sometimes gets too languid (the title track) but often brings out the delicacy of the setting (“Apareceu”). “Blue Nefertiti” gets the second part of its name from a sideways quote of a certain Wayne Shorter tune.

Beginning with “Snow,” Johnson asserts himself more, following that track with the solo “Since You Asked” exemplifying his vast melodic skills. In the closing “Don’t Ask of Me,” a drone accompanies a bowed solo where his impeccable tone could easily be mistaken for a cello. In between, “Raise” gives the group a medium hard-bop groove, and drummer Joey Baron, up to this point filling out the sound with subtle nuances, gets a chance to light a fire under the band, particularly Lovano.

Originally Published