J.J. Johnson

Stonebone

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AllMusic Review by

Oddly, the third of the J&K A&M projects was released only in Japan, though it was given a U.S. catalogue number (SP 3027), and one can only speculate as to why -- the diminishing American audience for jazz in 1969, producer Creed Taylor's impending move to start his own label. But the fact is that this is the best album of the three -- and the one closest in touch with the crucial improvisatory impulse of jazz. It is a prototype of the CTI formula of the '70s, allowing first-class jazz musicians to groove at length with minimal shaping on the production end to give these tracks drama. Johnson especially enjoys his freedom here, with plenty of room to stretch out joyously. We also hear the fluid inventive guitar of George Benson in full youthful bloom, Herbie Hancock is caught near the beginning of his funky experiments with electronic keyboards (augmented by Bob James and Ross Tompkins on "Recollections") and Ron Carter and Grady Tate have never played better on a Creed Taylor production. If you somehow stumble upon this superb import, grab it or hope that A&M comes to its senses and lets you hear it someday.