George A. Johnson, Jr.

All Star Tribute

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Although he plays with a lot of well-known musicians in this compilation of live and studio recordings, drummer George Johnson, Jr., is unlikely to be a familiar name to most jazz fans. Even though Johnson is listed first among the credits to each piece, it seems more likely that he was a sideman on the concert recordings, while he stays more in the background on many of the studio tracks. Listeners will be mostly interested in the outstanding solos work of organist Charles Earland (in his fine hard bop tribute "Morgan," which honors Lee Morgan), trombonist Wycliffe Gordon (on a live "Shaw Nuff"), and alto saxophonist Donald Harrison (in a somewhat muddy live recording of "Birdlike"). Johnson takes an extended solo on brushes in a concert recording with pianist Abdullah Ibrahim of the South African's "Tuanga Gara." Completely forgettable is Johnson's sole vocal, an overproduced "Fly Me to the Moon," where he accompanies himself on drums, backed by annoying sequencing. The CD's production values are troublesome, as the sound is extremely uneven, with sloppy editing that results in repeated segments at the end of several songs, while a few tracks sound like audience recordings. The problems carry over into the text of the booklet, as the names of several musicians and one song title are misspelled. Johnson would have benefited from spending more time polishing the final product before making it available for sale.

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