JJ Johnson All Stars – Live in Bern, Switzerland – May 3, 1987 – RTS Espace 2 –
JJ Johnson this weekend. With his All-Stars, featuring Nat Adderley on cornet, Harold Land on tenor saz, Cedar Walton on Piano, Richard Davis on bass and Roy McCurdy on drums. All captured at the Kursaal in Bern Switzerland by Swiss radio and TV on May 3, 1987.
J. J. Johnson was an American jazz trombonist, composer and arranger. He was one of the earliest trombonists to embrace bebop.
While the trombone was featured prominently in dixieland and swing music, it fell out of favor among bebop musicians, largely because instruments with valves and keys (trumpet, saxophone) were believed to be more suited to bebop’s often rapid tempos and demand for technical mastery. In 1946, bebop co-inventor Dizzy Gillespie encouraged the young trombonist’s development: “I’ve always known that the trombone could be played different, that somebody’d catch on one of these days. Man, you’re elected.”
From the mid-1950s, but especially the early 1960s on, Johnson dedicated more and more time to composition. He became an active contributor to the Third Stream movement in jazz, (which included such other musicians as Gunther Schuller and John Lewis), and wrote large-scale works which incorporated elements of both classical music and jazz. He contributed his “Poem for Brass” to a Third Stream compilation titled Music for Brass in 1957, and composed a number of original works which were performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1961, he composed a suite in six movements, titled Perceptions, with Gillespie as soloist. The First International Jazz Festival, held in Washington, D.C. in 1962, featured another extended work. In 1965, he spent time in Vienna to perform and record his Euro Suite with a jazz-classical fusion orchestra led by Friedrich Gulda. In 1968, a Johnson work titled “Diversions” was commissioned by the American Wind Symphony and performed.
Johnson’s work in the 1940s and 1950s demonstrated that the slide trombone could be played in the bebop style; as trombonist Steve Turre has summarized, “J. J. did for the trombone what Charlie Parker did for the saxophone. And all of us that are playing today wouldn’t be playing the way we’re playing if it wasn’t for what he did. And not only, of course, is he the master of the trombone—the definitive master of this century—but, as a composer and arranger, he is in the top shelf as well.”
Several of Johnson’s compositions, including “Wee Dot”, “Lament”, and “Enigma” have become jazz standards.
From the mid-1950s onwards, Johnson was a perennial polling favorite in jazz circles, even winning “Trombonist of the Year” in DownBeat magazine during years he was not active. He was voted into the DownBeat Hall of Fame in 1995.
Press play and avail yourself of this 1987 gig at Jazzfestival Bern, 1987.