I’m a reporter for The Daily News in McKeesport. Luckily for me, I get to review the occasional jazz CD. Generally, our album reviews appear in the Thursday and Saturday papers. CDs can get up to 5 stars.
AARON J. JOHNSON "Songs of Our Fathers" (Bubble Sun Records) 5 starsFans of the hard bop tradition, listen up. Jazz trombonist Aaron J. Johnson's debut CD comes tearing out of the starting gate like a thoroughbred, then burns up the track like a well-kept Buick Dynaflow.
Fast. Fun. Strong. This collection will have listeners rolling down the windows and stepping on the gas. The opening cut, "A Fuller Life," is a pedal-to-the-metal bopper, and "Cannonball," not surprisingly, kicks up a little dust, but full speed ahead is not the album's only mode. Introspective listeners will appreciate the slower, melodic "So Long / I Can't Wait" a few tracks in, while "Folk Forms" and "Big Fun Blues" show the band knows how to get its split-personality groove on, shifting back and forth easily on both tunes between a serious swing thing and a crazy New Orleans kick. The penultimate cut on the CD is the alleycat-cool "Shamba," while the closer, "Our Thing," is another high-octane run.
Johnson, 51, was born in Washington, D.C., but local jazz fans may know of him through his involvement with the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Kenny Clarke and Nathan Davis. He's also got a degree in engineering from CMU and a ton of musical credits playing with big name jazz acts. He's supported well on his debut solo CD by Salim Washington on tenor sax, pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs, bassist Robert Sabin and Victor Lewis on drums.
Hopefully the trombonist has a few more like this up his sleeve. (Eric Slagle)
This artic appeared in The Daily News on March 7.