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Marcus Johnson: Comin’ Back Around

On Comin’ Back Around (Marimelj/Lightyear 54422-2; 52:34) Marcus Johnson brings the urban-jazz genre back to where it should be-percussive, moody, complex and, yes, contemporary-but with a chewy gospel-blue, true R&B center. Johnson’s compositions, from the candle-lit mood of “9 Floatilla,” with its breathless saxophone calls, to the midtempo jazzy “Got to Give a Little Bit,” featuring the throaty, Chaka Khan-reminiscent vocals of Alyson Williams, are miles apart from his genre contemporaries in terms of arrangement and execution. His piano cascades and rolls, hopping through the soulful “1223 Chillin’,” for example, and near-reggae gaited rhythmic motion circles a deceptively simple melody on “Through the Spirit,” with percussion programming that doesn’t sound programmed. Rootsy influences like gospel, blues and a bit of Bruce Hornsby-style heartland piano thread through the lithe groove piece “Comin’ Back Around,” and a cool, savvy cover of Erykah Badu’s “On and On” layers galloping percussion exotica with a sax-doubles-piano melodic-jazzy feel.

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