Howard Johnson / Howard Johnson & Gravity

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The idea of a tuba sextet might seem a bit too daffy a defiance of the laws of gravity, but Hojo's ensemble -- nicknamed Gravity -- comes up with some surprisingly mellifluous textures on their second album to date. Though the playing sounds staggeringly clumsy on the opening title track, things quickly coalesce thereafter. The tuba harmonies oddly often bear a pleasing kinship with those of Steve Turre's massed conch shells, and the shadow of Gil Evans is everywhere. The eclectic sometime bluesician Taj Mahal -- who first worked with Johnson's tuba ensemble back in 1971 -- revives their long-dormant collaboration by appearing on three tracks, including a Ray Charles-ish "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" (catch the echoes of Evans' "Blues for Pablo" in the tubas). As a perhaps deliberately extreme juxtaposition, Johnson also solos attractively on the tiny pennywhistle on Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me a Bedtime Story," beautifully realized by the group, and moves jaggedly out in front of the band on baritone sax as well. Elegant fun.

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