With so much new music being made in various types by past members, family, and close associates of The Allman Brothers Band, keeping up can be a challenge. For those inclined to try, the rewards have been consistently superb. Add The J. & F. Band to the group.
A Mississippian by birth, Johnny Lee Johnson began playing drums as a youngster, hooking up with R&B greats like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave along the way. In 1969, as Jai Johanny Johanson, he became the intricate half of the two kits powering the Allman Brothers. Nicknamed Jaimoe, he also played a uniquely Southern fusion of jazz and R&B in Sea Level in the mid-1970s, and since 2005, his Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band has been specializing in jazz, blues, rock, and soul music.
The J. & F. Band differs entirely from anything Jaimoe has previously tackled. Performances are built from a pure jazz source, but venture into utterly fascinating territory. Thus, this debut album’s title. Cut in two days this past February in Italy, Jaimoe plays in the company of a large, disciplined group of Italian jazz players led by bassist Joe Fonda. Every minute of the album’s two hours over two CDs — eight originals, save a surprising shot at Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken” — emphasizes the incredible interplay between the band members and several guests, as well as the imaginative compositional skills of Fonda and drummer Tiziano Tononi (Tononi appears in the left channel, Jaimoe in the right).
In “Spirits of the Great Plains,” dedicated to Gregg Allman, 10 minutes of tender mourning pass by before an exhilarating guitar solo cracks the sky above the melody. Then, for its final third, the piece accelerates to a near explosion. Blues certainly underlines those grooves, but Miles Davis and Weather Report rhythms collide in spirit above.
“West Bufalino” begins with resonances like a Close Encounter, the intertwining instruments creating a damn near visual experience. Realms collide dramatically in the number, because suddenly, the otherworldly textures become earthy and exotic. The soothing “Gone Too Soon” then allows the nuances of all the instruments, particularly the bass and the brass section, to shine subtly, and elegantly. The second CD contains two “jams,” with the free-form “Super Jam,” at 28 minutes, containing particularly challenging, yet exceedingly motivating group improvisation. Beautifully recorded, this album belongs in the collection of all serious jazz and Allman Brothers fans.
— Tom Clarke
The J. & F. Band – From The Roots To The Sky
Label: Long Song Records|
Released: Nov. 12, 2018