February 28, 2024

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CD review: Geof Bradfield, Richard D. Johnson, John Tate, Samuel Jewell – Our Heroes – 2023: Video, CD cover

The founder and chief of the Chicago Jazz Music, Richard Dee Johnson, is rich in interesting and unconventional ideas in his publishing policy.

In 2021, he released the album Altoizm, bringing together three alto saxophone masters, all Chicagoans, of course: Richard is always looking for musicians from his native Windy City scene (Cherelle Cassity, Greg Ward, Rajeev Haleem).

The following year he did the same experiment with tenor saxophonists: John Wojciechowski, Geoff Bradfield and Scott Barnes played in Tenor Time. And this year Richard changed his accents somewhat, but the new release Our Heroes is also close to the general concept of all three albums.

This time he decided to compile a program of compositions inspired by the work of jazz heroes especially dear to the project participants, and as participants he invited the same Bradfield, bassist John Tate and drummer Samuel Jewell – all, naturally, Chicagoans.

He himself, as in previous projects, took a place at the piano. As he himself states, “It is important to me, as a musician and teacher, that jazz students realize that their teachers also have their heroes.”

The choice of these same heroes, the preferences of the musicians who composed the album program – this is perhaps the most interesting thing about Our Heroes. Johnson contributed four of his compositions to it. The album opens with his play Corea – here the title speaks for itself and requires no comment. It is followed by his own composition Loved Ones, dedicated to the outstanding bassist Percy Heath.

Johnson’s other two pieces were Caution, in honor of virtuoso pianist Benny Greene, and High & Low, my personal favorite of the program, a delicious blues that Johnson thought of such masters as Phil Woods, Jackie McLean and Jimmy Heath. Brafield contributed three pieces to the album. One of Chicago’s strongest saxophonists wrote Some Other Sunday, inspired by Ellington’s Come Sunday, which in turn goes back to Debussy’s string quartet, Blues For Stanley Cowell (everything is clear from the title) and The Cruelest Month with modified chords of the standard I’ll Remember April. Finally, two plays are by Tate.

There’s Aspartame, a tribute to Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, and Peaceful Giant, a tribute to Tate’s teacher Ron Carter. The quartet of Chicago musicians played the entire program with their inherent skill, which would be a truism to talk about.

1 Richard D. Johnson – Corea (6:33)
2 Richard D. Johnson – Loved Ones (6:22)
3 Geof Bradfield – Some Other Sunday (4:45)
4 Richard D. Johnson – Caution (feat. Samuel Jewell) (5:57)
5 Geof Bradfield – High & Low (6:50)
6 Geof Bradfield – Blues for Stanley Cowell (feat. Samuel Jewell) (6:30)
7 John Tate – Aspartame (7:46)
8 John Tate – Peaceful Giant (feat. Samuel Jewell) (3:39)
9 Geof Bradfield – Then Cruelest Month (feat. Samuel Jewell) (7:30)

Geof Bradfield – sax
Richard D. Johnson – piano, keyboards
John Tate – bass
Samuel Jewell – drums

NEW RELEASE: Geof Bradfield, Richard D. Johnson, John Tate and Samuel  Jewell's album 'Our Heroes' is due out September 8, 2023 via AFAR Music -  LYDIALIEBMAN.COM

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