Mark Johnson

Daydream

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Since the release of his stunning worldbeat-meets-funk debut in 1994, fusion-schooled saxman Mark Johnson developed a neatly symbiotic relationship with veteran duo Special EFX. Both on tour and disc, Johnson's creative horn leaps all but transformed George Jinda and Chieli Minucci's cool pop-jazz flavors into an urban locomotive. And with Jinda's free-spirited, percussive co-production once again leading the way, Johnson's sophomore effort Daydream is just as playful, intense, and heartfelt as his first. Johnson's at his best on tunes where he can blow wild yet melodically over thick bass-drum combinations, but saves his most artistic voyages for EFX-like pieces à la "Island Lullaby" (which smacks of Andy Narell and offers exotic chant schemes) and "Dim the Lights." If anything, Johnson and Jinda have learned to hone their synergy into a slicker, more commercial package, which makes the flow super palatable in spots, slightly generic in others. The Prince and Temptations covers are cool if a little too much by the book, but in terms of oversmoothing the package, the real culprit is the reliance on those Najee-like backing vocals. Sure, they're easy listening, but we've heard those sounds before and they don't really add anything to Jinda and Johnson's remarkable instrumental duotones.

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