Randy Johnston

Walk On

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Randy Johnston is a perfect example of a jazzman who has never been innovative or groundbreaking but is darn good at what he does. Heavily influenced by fellow guitarist Grant Green but still his own person, Johnston has stuck with what he does best: hard bop and soul-jazz. Johnston isn't one to leave his bop-oriented comfort zone, which is probably just as well because musicians who like what they're playing tend to be more productive. In 1991, the guitarist showed much promise on his first album as a leader, Walk On, which was produced by tenor saxophonist Houston Person and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder. Person doesn't actually do any playing on this CD; the musicians who join Johnston are pianist Benny Green (not to be confused with the late trombonist Bennie Green), saxman Bill Easley, bassist Ray Drummond, and drummer Kenny Washington. Nonetheless, Walk On is exactly the type of project one would expect Person to be involved with -- an aggressive, hard-swinging bop session that sometimes moves into soul-jazz territory. Nothing groundbreaking occurs, but Johnston is in good form on material that ranges from Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'" (one of the standards that bop fans will always associate with Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers) to Ivory Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind" and Jay McShann's "Jumping the Blues." These are appropriate choices for Johnston because he's a very blues-minded player -- Johnston isn't as adventurous or ambitious as his hero, Grant Green, but he is obviously mindful of Green's soulfulness. Johnston, like Green, is the sort of improviser who values feeling as well as chops. Walk On never pretended to reinvent the jazz wheel, but it was a decent way for him to start his recording career as a leader.

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