Henry Johnson: Missing You
Crisp and clean are the cue words here, from Johnson's smooth, full-bodied Heritage archtop to his own lush production. Johnson is a highly-skilled technician who has worked with the likes of Ramsey Lewis, Joe Williams, and Donny Hathaway. Missing You is like a nice tasty treat with a good solid filling Though it's a bit on the "lite" side (so maybe it's like a jelly-filled doughnut), and still gets airplay on NAC radio, it's got groove and Johnson doesn't hesitate to let us know he can play.
The opener, an El DeBarge tune called All This Love has all the makings of that contemporary jazz thang. It sets the standard for the tracks which follow with the synthetic string backing tracks, the placid groove, and electronic tine piano. Who cares? It's that 'feel good' kind of stuff, and in this case it really works. Good grooves, good melodies, great mix, and an artist who can play!
Track 2, Romance Me follows in the same vein. Robert Gates does a nice job laying down a steady drum track, but things never kick up much of a real fuss. The rest of the crew, which includes Bob Long on keyboards, Frank Russell on bass, Ricardo Bozas on percussion and Michael Logan (keys on two tracks), also do their jobs well. For example, on Osaka Sunrise , an upbeat number, the whole team is kicking a nice beat, consistent with NAC ears (all the tracks tend to be around 4 minutes). It just lacks that extra spice that would bring everything to life.
Don't Ask My Neighbor is unfortunately one of those heard-too-often lite jazz ballads complete with triggered electronic drums. I think Johnson could be more expressive and soulful with the production he sure is with his playing. On Johnson's own I Just Called we've got more of the lite-jazz, poppy-wanna-smile stuff. Just the same, if this were swing and weren't stuck in that NAC-production vacuum, the track would be kicking.
This is a nice album, but it probably won't age well. Unfortunately, it will most likely be dated by its production (much like a number of similar efforts in the late 1980's and early 90's from artists like Bob James, David Sanborn, Lee Ritenour and others). A couple of other highlights include Quien Para Saber? , the Donny Hathaway tune Flying East (apart from the synth horns), and the not-so-very Mileslike. Over all, this album is like most of music you can hear everyday on "Smooth Jazz" radio stations across the country (this album gets decent play!), and is much better than the work of most other guys slingin' an archtop to backbeats and other grooves.