J.J. Johnson: My Funny Valentine


My Funny Valentine


J.J. Johnson (trombone)


Standards: Live at the Village Vanguard (Verve 510059)

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J.J. Johnson (trombone),

Stanley Cowell (piano), Rufus Reid (bass), Victor Lewis (drums)


Composed by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart


Recorded: live at the Village Vanguard, New York, July 1988


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

The great trombonist J.J. Johnson's engagement at New York's Village Vanguard in July 1988 was a major jazz event. Finally he was returning to active touring with a working band after nearly two decades in Hollywood, primarily writing for film and television. Those in attendance who heard him play "My Funny Valentine" may have thought back to his 1957 recording of it with Stan Getz, but there is really no comparison. While in 1957 Johnson's boppish improvisation exhibited a staccato, wide-ranging and multi-noted attack, in 1988 Johnson delves into trombone's lower depths and dwells there for the duration. He plays the theme in a deliberate, halting fashion, extending each deep note with astonishing tonal control, hitting some notes with a timbre that resembles that of a foghorn at sea. His embellishments and progressions are fresh, dramatic and occasionally eerie. He concludes with an emotionally searing coda-like summation, rather than a conventional reprise. A true masterpiece, and a bold declaration by J.J. that he was back stronger than ever.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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