A posthumous CD release for the great Eddie Johnson
Tenor saxophonist Eddie Johnson, who died last year on April 7 at age 89, was one of Chicago's greatest jazz musicians, a pure embodiment of the classic swing he'd grown up playing. He only made two albums under his own name, and the better of the pair, 1981's Indian Summer, was finally issued on CD by Nessa this month, with a bonus track not on the LP. (His other album is the 1999 Delmark release Love You Madly.)
Johnson was born near New Orleans and settled in Chicago in 1941, where he played in Cootie Williams's big band. He turned down an offer to join the Duke Ellington Orchestra in favor of a better-paying stint with R&B giant Louis Jordan (a decision he later regretted), and by the end of the 40s he'd all but retired from music. He picked up the horn again full-time in 1980, playing regularly at Andy's with the quintet that appears on Indian Summer—trumpeter Paul Serrano, pianist John Young, bassist Eddie de Haas, and drummer George Hughes. This kind of warm, elegantly driving swing is in some ways a lost sound, because so many of the musicians who originated it have moved on or died. It's good to have it back, if only on disc.
After an April residency at the Whistler, in early May the trio Sun Rooms—vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Nate McBride, and drummer Mike Reed—recorded their second album at Strobe Recording with engineer Griffin Rodriguez. As yet untitled, it's due from Delmark in the fall. Ken Vandermark's Topology will enter Strobe for its first session on June 3, following a show at Elastic the night before; the nonet will record Vandermark's arrangements of compositions by Poughkeepsie multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee (see page BTK), who's part of the group. —Peter Margasak