Mark Johnson

Deep Focus

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The same sort of creative, collaborative nurturing effect has given Mark Johnson the confidence to try a new production tack on Deep Focus, the saxman's third disc but first without veteran percussionist/producer George Jinda's guiding hand. Johnson's bold step towards independence allows the New York saxman to dig deeper into a diverse pool of influences and experience -- '70s soul, aggressive jazzy funk, modern hip-hop (the cleverly titled "Shades of Dre"), even great Latin horn sections. Johnson pays homage to his own blues/rock résumé on the disc's best party jam, the free-for-all brass explosion "Smoke and Mirrors," which features George Laks on Hammond organ, Hiram Bullock on guitar, and Gerald Veasley on bass. It's clear that Jinda (with whom Johnson records and tours with as part of Special EFX) has taught Johnson the production ropes well. A few timid, overtly airplay conscious ballads hardly detract from the genuine sense of fun Johnson is focused on these days.

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