This is the second album by Jeff Johnson for the Origin label, even though the preceding Free was recorded at a later date than this session. Using a quartet instead of a trio format, Johnson continues to explore facets of modern creative jazz, but in such a way as not to force listeners to dissociate themselves from the proceedings. While highly exploratory, there is sufficient symmetry and melody to make the music meaningful. Johnson is joined by two of the three cohorts he has worked with previously, Hans Teuber on saxophones and Billy Mintz on drums. Joining the group for some tracks is Randy Porter on piano, which adds a bit more harmonic structure to the proceedings. Nonetheless, cerebral and meditative themes continue to pervade the performances. The title tune offers as much as any, an instance of how the group stays within the four walls of a theme without diminishing opportunities for improvisational excursions. Teuber sets the tone for this piece, while Johnson's bass resounds beneath. The practice of letting Mintz explore the various thoroughfares of drum solos continues here. While this cut leans toward the softer side, another Johnson composition, "Bejing," incorporates Asian musical devices such as chimes, and is also more dissonant. Teuber's sax emits assorted screeches and squawks, without letting them become affectations. The benefits of Porter's piano are heard to good effect as he opens a melodic rendition of Pat Martino's "Portrait of Diana," with Teuber soon floating over the melody line. When Johnson joins in, the piece creates a picture of three old and good friends having a pleasant get-together on a Sunday afternoon. The Art of Falling offers almost 70 minutes of modern jazz designed to be heard rather than simply played.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan