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Russ Johnson: Save Big

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Russ Johnson’s Save Big combines qualities not often found together. It is both challenging and instantly likable. The album delivers on the implicit promise of economy in its title by a clean, intelligent, uncluttered, no-nonsense approach to freebop.

The personnel are trumpeter Johnson, alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher, bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Mark Ferber. Given the concept and the trumpet-alto frontline in a pianoless quartet, Ornette Coleman comparisons are inevitable. The album’s elastic, start-stop time and balls-to-the-wall two-horn jousting indeed recall Coleman and Don Cherry in full flight. But Johnson’s band presents fewer jagged edges and more variety.

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