June 13, 2024


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Johnny O’Neal – In The Moment 2017: Video

While every great jazz musician knows the value of spontaneity, few understand the true value of being in the moment quite like Johnny O’Neal. A rising star in the early 1980s, O’Neal left New York after a mugging in 1986.

Performing and recording in Atlanta, St. Louis, Montreal and his native Detroit, he experienced another setback after he was diagnosed as HIV positive in 1998. Since returning to New York in 2010, however, both his life and his health have been on an upswing, cementing that long-promised star status at the age of 60. His new album, In the Moment, is his most vivid recording to date, fully capturing the elegant pianism and emotionally gripping voice that have made him such a beloved fixture on the NYC jazz scene ever since his unparalleled comeback.

In the Moment will be released on 2017 by Smoke Sessions Records — appropriately enough, as the label’s namesake club has been one of O’Neal’s home bases for the last seven years. The album features bassist Ben Rubens and drummer Itay Morchi, O’Neal’s regular working trio for the past year. The weightless swing and easy but deeply felt interplay the three share reveal the benefits of their regular residencies, which include late-night every Saturday at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club and Sunday nights at Small’s. Some of the biggest names in jazz stop by to hear O’Neal, and there’s no telling who might sit in during his sets on any given week. True to that policy, two very special guests dropped by the studio for this session — trumpet great Roy Hargrove and tenor-man Grant Stewart.

Johnny O’Neal, piano (except on 13), and vocals (on 2,6,7,13 & 15)
Ben Rubens, bass
Itay Morchi, drums
Roy Hargrove, trumpet on tracks 1,2,6,12 & 13
Grant Stewart. tenor sax on tracks 1,6,7 & 12

Recorded live at Sear Sound Studio C, New York, May 9, 2017,

  1. Sweet Monk (4:10)
  2. Guilty (5:14)
  3. Churchill Grounds (2:11)
  4. Savings All My Love For You (6:07)
  5. After The Love Is Gone (3:17)
  6. She Doesn’t Know (I Love Her) (5:39)
  7. Slow Hot Wind (5:30)
  8. Please Be Kind (3:55)
  9. The Folks Who Live On The Hill (4:22)
  10. Cgls (3:42)
  11. People Make The World Go Round (5:21)
  12. Sunday In New York (6:25)
  13. Trav’lin’ Light (3:17)
  14. Just A Dream (On My Mind) (3:37)
  15. Being In Love With You (3:54)
  16. Tropical Breeze (4:53)

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