.Release/Reissue » 2021 » Al Cohn & J.J. Johnson – Beautiful Way (2021 FLAC)

Al Cohn & J.J. Johnson – Beautiful Way (2021 FLAC)

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Al Cohn & J.J. Johnson - Beautiful Way (2021 FLAC)

Al Cohn & J.J. Johnson – Beautiful Way (2021 FLAC)

Artist: Al Cohn & J.J. Johnson
Album: Beautiful Way
Release/Reissue: 2021
Genre: Jazz

01. My Blues
02. Just One of Those Things
03. Crimea River
04. Out of Nowhere
05. I Ain’t Got Nobody
06. Earthy
07. Mediolistic
08. I’ll Remember April
09. The Front Line
10. When Your Lover Has Gone
11. If I Had You
12. I Wouldn’t
13. More Bread
14. Jay Jay’s Blues
15. A New Moan
16. Soft Winds
17. Blue Lou

An excellent tenor saxophonist and a superior arranger/composer, Al Cohn was greatly admired by his fellow musicians. Early gigs included associations with Joe Marsala (1943), Georgie Auld, Boyd Raeburn (1946), Alvino Rey, and Buddy Rich (1947). But it was when he replaced Herbie Steward as one of the “Four Brothers” with Woody Herman’s Second Herd (1948-1949) that Cohn began to make a strong impression. He was actually overshadowed by Stan Getz and Zoot Sims during this period but, unlike the other two tenors, he also contributed arrangements, including “The Goof and I.” He was with Artie Shaw’s short-lived bop orchestra (1949), and then spent the 1950s quite busy as a recording artist (making his first dates as a leader in 1950), arranger for both jazz and non-jazz settings, and a performer. Starting in 1956, and continuing on an irregular basis for decades, Cohn co-led a quintet with Zoot Sims. The two tenors were so complementary that it was often difficult to tell them apart. Al Cohn continued in this fashion in the 1960s (although playing less), in the 1970s he recorded many gems for Xanadu, and during his last few years, when his tone became darker and more distinctive, Cohn largely gave up writing to concentrate on playing. He made many excellent bop-based records throughout his career for such labels as Prestige, Victor, Xanadu, and Concord; his son Joe Cohn is a talented cool-toned guitarist. ~ Scott Yanow


Considered by many to be the finest jazz trombonist of all time, J.J. Johnson somehow transferred the innovations of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie to his more awkward instrument, playing with such speed and deceptive ease that at one time some listeners assumed he was playing valve (rather than slide) trombone. Johnson toured with the territory bands of Clarence Love and Snookum Russell during 1941-1942, and then spent 1942-1945 with Benny Carter’s big band. He made his recording debut with Carter (taking a solo on “Love for Sale” in 1943), and played at the first JATP concert (1944). Johnson also had plenty of solo space during his stay with Count Basie’s Orchestra (1945-1946). During 1946-1950, he played with all of the top bop musicians, including Charlie Parker (with whom he recorded in 1947), the Dizzy Gillespie big band, Illinois Jacquet (1947-1949), and the Miles Davis Birth of the Cool Nonet. His own recordings from the era included such sidemen as Bud Powell and a young Sonny Rollins. Johnson, who also recorded with the Metronome All-Stars, played with Oscar Pettiford (1951) and Miles Davis (1952), but then was outside of music, working as a blueprint inspector for two years (1952-1954). His fortunes changed when, in August 1954, he formed a two-trombone quintet with Kai Winding that became known as Jay and Kai and was quite popular during its two years.


After Johnson and Winding went their separate ways (they would later have a few reunions), Johnson led a quintet that often included Bobby Jaspar. He began to compose ambitious works, starting with 1956’s “Poem for Brass,” and including “El Camino Real” and a feature for Dizzy Gillespie, “Perceptions”; his “Lament” became a standard. Johnson worked with Miles Davis during part of 1961-1962, led some more small groups of his own, and by the late ’60s was kept busy writing television and film scores. J.J. Johnson was so famous in the jazz world that he kept on winning Downbeat polls in the 1970s, even though he was not playing at all. However, starting with a Japanese tour in 1977, Johnson gradually returned to a busy performance schedule, leading a quintet in the 1980s that often featured Ralph Moore. In the mid-’90s, he remained at the top of his field, but by the late ’90s and early into the 2000s, the legendary musician fell ill with prostate cancer, and sadly took his own life on February 4, 2001.