Johnson was unquestionably the first trombonist of bop when he recorded this June 1953 sextet date, although he had temporarily left full-time musical employment for work as a blueprint inspector at the time. That situation might have contributed to the combined sense of joy and urgency that propels this music, but it might also be the presence of the brilliant young trumpeter Clifford Brown, just 22 then and in his first month as a recording jazz musician. With their precise articulation, fleet inventiveness, and brassy fanfares, the two giants have much in common, and Brown's fire is a complement to Johnson's warmth. Johnson's talents as a composer shine on the boppish "Turnpike," while "Lover Man" shows both the depths of his lyricism and his knack for thoughtful arrangements using the limited resources of a small band. Jimmy Heath contributes some fluent tenor saxophone solos, and his baritone enriches the dark-hued orchestrations. The rhythm section of pianist John Lewis, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Kenny Clarke-already three-quarters of the Modern Jazz Quartet-provides thoughtful and dynamic support. "Sketch" reveals Lewis's gift for stretching the range of jazz composition, creating a series of shifting moods for each of the horn players. Rudy Van Gelder's remastering adds significant presence and clarity to a session that was always distinguished by intrepid writing as well as lively execution.
It Could Happen to You
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