Ed Johnson

Over That Wave

Cumulus Records 2002

Produced by Ed Johnson and Leslie Evers CR 0103

Ed Johnson, lead vocals, nylon string acoustic guitar; with numerous other musicians.

Vocalist, acoustic guitarist and composer Ed Johnson's new CD Over That Wave is simply a great joy, an unexpected pleasure. The music is Latin/Brazilian-Jazz with the classiness of high-caliber live traditional Jazz performances. There is a smooth Jazz sensibility on tunes such as the title track, as well as on "All Alone in Love," which makes this CD pleasing and accessible to a wide variety of audiences. The production also has a world-music flavor on a number of tunes. Over That Wave is Johnsonís second solo project (his solo debut, House of Doors, was released in 1994).

One of the first things to notice and then consistently appreciate on Over That Wave is Johnson's impressive, uplifting vocals. He's got a great, warm, full tone and style not commonly heard on radio these days - sort of a mix of Kenny Rankin, Bobby Caldwell, Jon Lucien and Michael Franks. Johnson's vocals blend gracefully with those of his background singers to generate a Manhattan-Transfer quality to some of the tunes. Johnson's voice is also quite similar in tone to David Pack, vocalist/guitarist from the 70's, early 80's soft-rock/pop group Ambrosia.

The CD has great production with strong performances by all of the musicians; especially enjoyable are the tasteful and warm piano accompaniment and solos by both Jennifer Scott and Jovino Santos Neto (Neto is a long-time pianist for Hermeto Pascoal). There are also some sweet solos on soprano sax (Kristen Strom) and harmonica (Keith Bennett). Background vocals lend a nice flair to many of the tunes. The drums and bass are always tastefully supportive of the lush production.

Johnson's enthusiastic, from-the-heart music immediately puts listeners into a good mood, like a refreshing tropical summer breeze with the opening tune "Diana." The entire CD maintains those good feelings , even with occasional wistful interpretations and lyrics such as on the traditional Jazz standard "A Certain Smile." "A Certain Smile" has harmonies reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters era which are part of a long, acapella introduction with female vocalists; it then segues into a laid-back harmonica solo serenaded by sweet guitar rhythms. The only other cover tune on this CD is "Freshet", done in a dulcet, low-key, manner by Johnson. (The other eight songs on this CD are co-composed by Johnson with songwriters Kitty King, Lissy Abraham, Mimi Hills and Piper Heisig.)

There are also some pretty, romantic tunes sung in Spanish which have universal appeal (the liner notes include lyrics in both Spanish and English). "Toda Mi Vida" (All My Life) is an uplifting, touching, new-age-tinged ballad with a guitar focus and some spiraling soprano sax solos. "VuÈlveme Esperanza" is a world-music tune showcasing Johnsonís gorgeous vocals that call for a return of hope. A hopeful philosophy is a pervasive underlying theme of the CD, one of the things that make this CD genuinely appealing.

Ed Johnson is a top guitarist, vocalist, composer and instructor in the San Francisco Bay area. Since 1980, Johnson has, with Carol McComb, led the group Gryphon Carolers. He has also performed and recorded with artists such as Smith Dobson, Nina Gerber and The Pointer Sisters. Johnson is co-founder of California Coast Music Camp and a co-author of an instructional booklet and CD on harmony singing.

by Val Vaccaro

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