Johnny O'Neal

On the Montreal Scene

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Pianist Johnny O'Neal displays several sides to his musical personality on this CD. On some tunes, particularly the uptempo romps, he sounds very influenced by Oscar Peterson, yet he also has his own brand of soul, which comes to the forefront on the ballads. During two numbers ("While the Blood Is Running Warm" and, most logically, "Come Sunday"), O'Neal comes across as a top-notch gospel pianist. His forceful and sincere vocalizing on three songs is an acquired taste, but O'Neal is effective on the closing blues. The straight-ahead music, which sometimes co-stars guitarist Russell Malone, has several surprises, including what may be the only instrumental version ever of the Gene Krupa-Anita O'Day hit "Let Me Off Uptown," a somber "Happy Days Are Here Again," and a colorful interpretation of "Come Sunday." Well worth checking out.

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