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Howard Johnson and Gravity: Testimony (Tuscarora)

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Howard Johnson and Gravity: "Testimony"
Howard Johnson and Gravity: “Testimony”

For decades, Howard Johnson has played the tuba with the kind of agility and treble-strafing power seldom associated with the low-register ax. Testimony documents the 75-year-old Johnson’s continuing vitality as a player, and offers yet another testament to his instrument’s viability in modern jazz.

Gravity, Johnson’s choir of low-brass horns, turns in appealingly rich and dark textures, beginning with the title track, the first of several on which the leader shows off his chops as an improviser, bouncing over the midtempo groove provided by pianist Carlton Holmes, bassist Melissa Slocum and drummer Buddy Williams. Johnson handily takes the lead of McCoy Tyner’s “Fly With the Wind,” slipping into the (relative) stratosphere and soloing before again passing the tuba baton to Dave Bargeron. Tyner’s “High Priest” finds the leader switching to his other main instrument, baritone saxophone, for a quick solo turn.

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