Jeff Johnson Trio
Origin Arts (82370)

Jeff Johnson, bass; Hans Teuber, saxophone; Billy Mintz, drums

In spite of the printed lineup info, this certainly doesn't feel like an effort by only three players. Check out the thick interactions between Johnson's bass and Teuber's saxophone on some of the cuts and see if your head doesn't register the heady dialogues as being the work of more than four arms.

Johnson's a shadow boxer who doesn't support a soloist as much as he challenges him. No wonder he's played with the likes of Chet Baker, Julian Priester, Billy Hart, Bob Moses, Bud Shank, and Charlie Rouse. Teuber sounds like Paul Desmond with a bad attitude, which mixes well with Mintz's heavy reliance on bass drum and Johnson's entirely unpredictable lines. The band catapults far beyond the theme on each cut, driving deep into improvisations that sever as many ties to the theme as possible without losing complete contact; yet the far-flung interactions are much more attractive than one would think such outside material could be.

The stuff's exceptionally high in fiber, especially for listener novices needing an introduction to the telekinesis connecting the twilight zoning members of a Jazz group like this. Johnson's version of Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" is a brave tweaking of a classic that demonstrates what a ballad sounds like in the hands of players who improvise with aural sandpaper.

by Dave McElfresh

New Sounds - CD Reviews March 2000