J.J. Johnson


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Coming up in the big bands led by Benny Carter and Count Basie, trombonist J.J. Johnson was among the first of the truly modern trombonists. For his first recording session as a leader, Johnson chose pianist Bud Powell, bassist Leonard Gaskin, drummer Max Roach, and the mighty Cecil Payne -- later famous as a baritone saxophonist -- blowing a really fine alto. Each of these Savoy sides bubbles with the fresh new energy of a vibrant, creative music reinventing itself. Johnson's next opportunity to lead occurred on December 24, 1947, with stellar bop baritone Leo Parker and a fine rhythm section in Hank Jones, Al Lucas, and Shadow Wilson. The sheer presence of so many great musical minds is thrilling as Sonny Rollins, John Lewis, and Gene Ramey show up at the third Savoy session on May 11, 1949. With the exception of six sides with Babs Gonzales earlier that year (as heard on Classics 1124, the 1947-1949 volume of the label's Gonzales chronology), these are the earliest recordings ever made by Sonny Rollins. Johnson's next two dates would result in eight sides for the New Jazz label, combining Rollins with Kenny Dorham and then in October of 1949 teaming up with alto saxophonist Sonny Stitt. This is exceptionally satisfying primal bop, with no unnecessary or superfluous chaff, an impressive beginning to an illustrious career.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:00
2 3:00
3 3:07
4 2:43
5 3:00
6 2:35
7 2:59
8 2:28
10 2:49
11 2:26
12 2:28
13 2:53
14 2:40
15 3:01
16 2:46
17 3:03
18 3:10
19 3:04
20 2:50
blue highlight denotes track pick