Saturday, May 12, 2012

Twin Bones: Juan Pablo Torres and J.J. Johnson

The only thing that ultimately matters is to eat an ice-cream cone, play a slide trombone, plant a small tree, good God, now you're free.
Ray Manzarek

Even though I played trumpet for a while as a young buck I find very little to disagree with in the Doors’ keyboardist’s summation of freedom.

The mellow, burnished tone of the trombone is among my favorite sounds in the universe. And to end the week here are two fine albums by a pair of blue ribbon trombonists: Juan Pablo Torres, the Cuban, and J. J. Johnson, the greatest of all bone players.

Juan Pablo Torres

AfroCuban Trombone
Torres always puts out good records, and he's outdone himself this time, producing a masterpiece. Like a handful of other Cuban musicians Torres has begun to reexamine the history of Cuban music instead of just play it. So on a bunch of the tracks here the music is played by a saxophone quartet, with the bass role taken by a tuba. Some of the tunes have percussion and drums, others are a wind choir, and the simple process of arranging the music for the group takes it out of the ordinary. Other tracks have the extraordinary rhythm section of Jorge Reyes on bass and Enrique Pla on drums; it's modern Latin jazz at its best. Torres plays a ton of trombone, and he's joined in the front line by Irvin Acao, a tenor player who could hang in New York. The two of them bring so much to the music, it's like having a dictionary of American and Cuban musical practice, all explained by gifted conversationalists. (

         Track Listing:
         01 Afroidea
02 4 x 4
03 Lamento Montuno
04 Rumba Pa los Trombones
05 Ensalada De Mambo
06 Canuto
07 Trommontuno
08 Contrapunto
09 Cubachando
10 Montunostring

J.J. Johnson
Proof Positive
This CD reissue finds trombonist J.J. Johnson in prime form. In fact, his melancholy minor-toned explorations often recall Miles Davis, whose group he had played with the year before). Backed on six of the seven tracks by pianist Harold Mabern, who at the time was heavily influenced by McCoy Tyner, bassist Arthur Harper and drummer Frank Gant, Johnson gets to really stretch out on "Neo," "Minor Blues" and "Blues Waltz"; "Gloria" was previously available only on an Impulse sampler. Manny Albam's "Lullaby of Jazzland," on which Johnson is joined by guitarist Toots Thielemans, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Richard Davis and drummer Elvin Jones, rounds out the excellent set.

         Track Listing:
         01 Neo
02 Gloria
03 Stella By Starlight
04 Minor Blues
05 My Funny Valentine
06 Blues Waltz
07 Lullaby Of Jazzland

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