J.J. Johnson: El Camino Real


El Camino Real


J.J. Johnson (trombone)


J.J.! (aka The Dynamic Sound of J.J.! with Big Band) (Mosaic MCD-1004)

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J.J. Johnson (trombone),

Jimmy Maxwell, Thad Jones, Joe Wilder, Ernie Royal (trumpets), Jimmy Cleveland (trombone), Tommy Mitchell, Tony Studd (bass trombones), Jim Buffington (French horn), Bill Stanley (tuba), Jerry Dodgion, Harvey Estrin (alto saxes), Oliver Nelson (tenor sax), Budd Johnson (baritone sax), Hank Jones (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Grady Tate (drums)


Composed by J.J. Johnson


Recorded: New York, December 9, 1964


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

J.J. Johnson will forever be remembered as the most influential trombonist in jazz from the late 1940s onward. His pioneering work in transcending the trombone's technical limitations to create a modern jazz style on the instrument, combined with the huge advances in technique and flexibility by many of his successors, has led many people to associate Johnson with a rapid-fire machinegun-like approach to the horn that is not really a characteristic of his best playing. The fact is that J.J.'s mature playing was always lyrical, swinging and to the point. He was a fine composer and arranger as well, and his style and technique as a writer evolved throughout his career.

The first recorded example of his large ensemble writing to appear on record was his original "Rambo" done by the Basie band in 1946. He went on to write several excellent extended jazz works, including "Poem for Brass" and the album-length Perceptions for Dizzy Gillespie.

"El Camino Real" showcases Johnson's playing at its lyrical best. His trombone carries the lion's share of the thematic material, with the band supplying constantly shifting background textures and transitional material. The piece strikes a perfect balance between providing a showcase for J.J. as soloist and making the ensemble an equal partner in the total musical experience. Every J.J. Johnson record is a jazz trombone clinic, but this track is also a living textbook for composers and arrangers in the art of constructing a piece around a jazz soloist.

Reviewer: Kenny Berger

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