RUSS JOHNSON — Still Out to Lunch! (review)

RUSS JOHNSON — Still Out to Lunch! album cover Album · 2014 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
snobb
New Yorkers' Mostly Other People Do The Killing release of "Blue" where they just play note-by-note Miles Davis "Kind Of Blue" initiated stormy discussions in musical press last year. Musically hardly enticing this album's concept revitalized almost century-old disputes what is jazz and where all that go.

At the same time Chicago-based trumpeter Russ Johnson's version of Dolphy's "Out To Lunch",released same year, passed almost unnoticed. Less attractive as object for philosophical discussions, Johnson's "Still Out To Lunch!" contains more pretties for listener though. Being more customary one musician take on other artist's music,it doesn't copy the original as in case of above mentioned "Blue" and doesn't try to rework it drastically (after Otomo Yoshihide's 2005 "Out To Lunch" with Mats Gustafsson,brass section,computers and noises this task is hardy beatable).

Russ' formed very strong band play all Dolphy original album's compositions (in different order though)adding two previously unrecorded Dolphy rarities and one band drummer George Schuller father Gunter Schuller's (composer,who worked with Dolphy in his time) composition "Little Blue Devil". Johnson five-piece band don't contain vibraphonist (Bobby Hutcherson on original Dolphy release is changed by pianist Myra Melford), differently from Dolphy's alto,bass clarinet and flute Roy Nathanson plays alto and soprano sax. Johnson band sound more modern, more dynamic and if Dolphy's original is known by its excellent balance between free-bop and almost classical well organized relaxed sound, Johnson version is quite nervous,tight and riven.

Since there is hardly any sense just to copy already existing recorded music, "Still Out To Lunch" works well enough offering different look which probably could be tagged as "new century touch" on Dolphy's classics.With no doubt everyone takes a big risk working with such well-known material but Johnson and band demonstrate huge respect to original here. It's not a competition with Dolphy and not an ambition to make some things better, but more modernized presentation of genius work. Comprehensible like that this album deserves more attention - on its own way it popularizes one of the greatest jazz music ever recorded.
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