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Friday, Nov. 11, 2005


Mark Johnson: "Shades of Jade"

Bassists tend to hang back in jazz groups, rarely stepping out as leaders, and when they do step out, they play loud and thump. Bassist Mark Johnson's new release, "Shades of Jade," will stand out as an excellent exception.

Johnson is perhaps best known as bassist in the last brilliant trio of Bill Evans in the 1970s. Since then, Johnson has been the bassist of choice for everyone from Eliane Elias to John Scofield to Joe Lovano, all masters of tone, feeling and expressiveness. Those three join him here, together with Joey Baron on drums and Alain Mallet on organ.

The compositions, and much of the texture, are collaborations with Elias. On "Shades of Jade," the two create a throbbing heartbeat rhythm around which everyone wraps subtle solos. Their mutual calm fills the first half of the CD, until "Raise" opens up with a rollicking tempo that lets everyone throw down.

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