Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hot Jazz: Alphonso Johnson

Bassist and Chapman Stick extraordinaire Alphonso Johnson (b. 1951, Philadelphia) has had a distinguished career in music. His earliest recorded gig was as part of Philly's fabled Catalyst (1972-1974). But he ascended to international fame as part of the jazz super-group Weather Report (1973-76: Mysterious Traveller, Tale Spinnin' and Black Market), replacing Miroslav Vitous (Johnson was replaced in the band by Jaco Pastorius).

His Weather Report gig led to good recordings with Cannonball Adderley (Lovers), Norman Connors (Romantic Journey), Eddie Henderson (Sunburst), Quincy Jones (I Heard That!!), George Duke (The Aura Will Prevail), Flora Purim (Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly, That's What She Said) and even resulted in Allan Holdsworth's oddly revered Velvet Darkness (CTI, 1976).

Johnson's first solo album, Moonshadows (Epic, 1976) was a star-studded affair featuring Gary Bartz, Bennie Maupin, Patrice Rushen, George Duke (as Dawilli Gonga), Lee Ritenour, Blackbird McKnight, Narada Michael Walden, Leon Ndugu Chancler and Airto, recorded when the bassist was only 25 years old.

He recorded another two albums under his own name - including Spellbound (Epic, 1978), pictured purposely above, the last of his three albums for the Epic label - as well as further sessions with Billy Cobham, Lee Ritenour (Captain Fingers), Eric Gale (Multiplication), Chet Baker (You Can't Go Home Again), Bob James (Heads), Ronnie Foster (Love Satellite), Jan (Janne) Schaffer (Bla Passager), The Crusaders (Live In Japan), Arthur Blythe (Put Sunshine In It), Jeffrey Osborne (Stay With Me Tonight), Sarah Vaughan (Brazilian Romance) and Phil Collins (Face Value).

Spellbound also includes Johnson's wonderful near-hit "Bahama Mama," which first appeared on Flora Purim's That's What She Said (Milestone, 1976) and was later featured as part of Johnson's appearances on Montreux Summit (Columbia, 1978) and Alivemutherforya (Columbia, 1978) as well as a Japanese LP, Aurex Jazz Festival '80 that I've never heard (and a cover without Johnson by Swedish flautist Tys van Leer on his great 1978 album Nice To Have Met You).

Still performing, Johnson, whose stark good looks and handsome countenance could have made him a successful model or leading man, has gone on to anchor more recent recordings by Santana, The Meeting, Abraxas Pool, Jazz Is Dead and Sergio Mendes and has lately appeared live with former Santana great Gregg Rolie, the Manhattan Transfer and Danny Gotlieb.


Anonymous said...

Good work bro! Could you post Moonshadows for me? It is one of my favorite albums!! I would really appreciate it! Good day my friend!

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