George A. Johnson, Jr.

Turquoise Ocean

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Although drummer George Johnson is clearly the leader of this CD, he does not solo at all. Instead, he contributed four of the nine selections -- including "Turquoise Ocean," which is played at widely varying lengths three times, and "Sittin' by a Waterfall at a Full Moon" which appears twice -- and takes vocals on three of the standards. The first five selections are taken from a live date in which Johnson leads a quartet that features the highly original if generally disturbing tenor and soprano playing of Gary Thomas, pianist Kenny Drew Jr. and bassist Steve Kirby. The remainder of the CD was cut in the studio with a more conventional but unified group that includes Ralph Bowen on tenor, flute and soprano, pianist Rick Budesa and bassist Charles Fambrough. The music overall fits into the modern mainstream; the leader's so-so vocals on "Angel Eyes," "In the Evening" and a slightly over-the-top "Teach Me Tonight" are heartfelt, if not too essential, and kind of out of place. The main reasons to acquire this disc are for the contrasting solos of Thomas and Bowen.

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