Ed Johnson

Over That Wave

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Over That Wave is the kind of soft, Brazilian pop jazz album that artists like Al Jarreau and Flora Purim excelled at during the 1970s. It's gorgeously produced with lush vocal harmonies, authentic Brazilian percussion, and some of Ed Johnson's best compositions. In the best of all possible worlds, this is what contemporary smooth jazz should sound like. The guitarist/singer makes his home in Palo Alto and Over That Wave veritably gushes California. This is the perfect soundtrack for driving your convertible along an ocean-side highway. Johnson has a burnished tenor voice that often lifts into a soaring falsetto, as on the leadoff track, "Diana." He's no slouch on the guitar either, displaying a crisp technique and understanding of both traditional jazz and Latin styles. You never get the sense either that Johnson -- a middle-aged white guy -- is trying to ape Brazilian music. It's like he found a way to combine the soft rock of Christopher Cross with the expansive sound of Milton Nascimento. The up-tempo bossa "Lost in Leaving," featuring hiccuping cuica and flamenco flourishes, is a good example of how he is able to marry his melodic pop sensibility to his fussy jazz integrity. Lyrically, Johnson has a nice way of carrying a trope throughout a song, such as on the soul-inflected title track. He sings, "The state of love/Flotsam in the sea washing over me/Cascade of love/I never got over that wave." While Over That Wave doesn't break any new ground, it does reference those great albums of the '70s in an utterly contemporary fashion.

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