J.J. Johnson, Al Cohn

Trombonist J.J. Johnson and tenor-saxophonist Al Cohn did not work together that often but they had complementary styles. Johnson was the first trombonist to really understand how to play bebop, setting the pace for other trombonists during the next half-century. He was the Charlie Parker of his instrument. Al Cohn was a cool-toned tenor saxophonist who considered Lester Young to be his musical role model. He gained recognition when he was a member of Woody Herman’s Second Herd during 1948-49. Johnson and Cohn were both also talented arranger-composers who were often as renowned for their writing as for their playing.

On this easily enjoyable CD, J.J. Johnson and Al Cohn team up on four selections from 1954 in a septet, performing relaxed bop music. Trumpeter Jerry Hurwitz and pianist Henri Renaud are also heard from. In addition, the CD has two ballads (“The Things We Did Last Summer” and “Once In A While”) that showcase Cohn with a quartet, and a rendition of “If I Had You” that matches Johnson with Milt Jackson. This formerly rare music will be enjoyed by fans of 1950s bop.

SKU: IC7022

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Wallington Special Lisa Something for Lili The Things We Did Last Summer If I Had You Boo Wah Once In a While

Additional Info

Additional Info

Format: Jazz Record
Soloist/Artist J.J. Johnson
Instruments Music and Musicians
Composer No
Accompanist/ Conductor Al Cohn
SKU IC7022


Customer Reviews (2)

"C'est Cool"Review by Big Toots
IC 7022 J.J. Johnson Al Cohn

Before trombonist J.J. (actually, “J.L.” for James Louis) Johnson was winding with Kai, and tenor man, Al Cohn was suited with Zoot, the two joined forces and, with multiple ensembles supporting the pairing, recorded this neatly laid back session in 1954. The recording provides a marvelous musical snapshot of two superior artists graduating cum laude from the Bop Era and peeking into the Cool.

Johnson was actually the first trombonist to gain significance in the Bop period. The faster tempo and angular melodic structures were thought to provide a technical impasse to even superb bone men. However, Johnson’s technical abilities were developed to such a level that he could master the challenge. And, while the material presented here is no “Ko Ko” or “Cherokee,” Johnson demos that he’s got the goods and the greats. Johnson is hip to the Cool sound, even to the point of starting a solo quoting Miles’ lick from Davis’ seminal “Birth of the Cool” (“Lisa”).

Cohn, a scion of the Lester Young smooth tradition and also a graduate of Woody Herman’s Second Herd (not the “Four Brothers” iteration, as is sometimes inaccurately noted), is all aces here. His sound is that mellower, softer-edged “youthful” tone and his solo forays are developed with a logical, yet swinging adherence to lyricism. He glides through the changes with grace, never missing (“Something for Lili,” “Boo Wah”). His solo on “If I Had You” is a lecture on same. That track is one of the two highlights of the session to my ears – the other is the only ballad on the date where Cohn covers a smoky “Once in a While.”

Four of the tracks here feature a small “big band,” with Jerry Hurwitz’s Boppish trumpet, Gigi Gryce surprisingly on baritone sax, pianist Henri Renaud (who was on all cuts and might have been in deeper water here), bassist, Curley Russell and drummer, Walter Bolden. Mallet Master, Milt Jackson (pre-MJQ) joined the smaller ensemble on one superb track (an uptempoed rendition of “If I Had You”). The larger ensemble sound is arranged and delivered directly out of the “Cool School.”

J.J. and Al might have gone off with different partners after this. However, here the pair are happily Honeymooning in Paris. C’est Cool.
(Posted on 5/22/2015)
J.J. Johnson / Al CohnReview by Simon Sez
There are not too many musicians who can be said to have been the leader and the giant of their instrument for 50 years straight. J.J. Johnson was considered the top jazz trombonist by most jazz fans by 1946, and in 1996 (and up to his death in 2001) he was still the tops on his horn. In fact, during the 1970s when he mostly worked in Hollywood as the composer for movie soundtracks and he rarely even picked up his horn, Johnson still won Downbeat polls. While Al Cohn never won a poll despite being great on tenor and as an arranger (too much competition), he was very consistent during a career that was long as Johnson’s and he made many fine records.
This excellent album in the Jazz Legacy Series has Johnson and Cohn playing together in 1954 in Europe with a group that has Gigi Gryce making rare appearances on baritone. The co-leaders blend together well and swing while displaying cool laidback tones. In addition Cohn is featured sounding warm on two ballads. This music used to be rare and it is one of the rare times that J.J. Johnson and Al Cohn played together.

Simon Sez: J.J. Johnson/Al Cohn (IC7022) has laidback but swinging music from 1954 featuring the co-leaders playing very well in France.
(Posted on 5/6/2014)

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