Dave Brubeck: Small Groups, Large Stature
All of the songs on both CDs were written and arranged by Johansson, whose bright and lyrical compositions mirror closely his approach to the keyboard. As a soloist / accompanist, he brings to mind another Swedish master, Jan Lundgren, and there aren't many compliments more lavish than that. It could be said without rebuttal that Lundgren has actually followed in Johansson's footsteps, as Ronny got there first. Whatever the case, there's no denying that Johansson and Lundgren are extraordinary pianists who excel at writing and whose import has been enormous. If you're a Lundgren fan, and there are many throughout the world, you'll certainly appreciate what Johansson brings to the table.
Johansson has two more things going for him, namely Mori and Karlsson, whose seamless back-up work anchors the trio securely and helps raise it to a consistently impressive level. Johansson most often writes with themes in mind, as the songs on both albums affirm. On New Jubilee, for example, "My Japanese Heart" extols the trio's tour of Japan in 2010, while "My French Heart" recalls an evening at the Blue Note in Paris where Johansson saw and heard Bud Powell and Victor Feldman perform. "Hope" was written in the wake of the tsunami that devastated parts of Japan, "Aries" for Johansson's wife, Ulla. "Piano Noir" is a play on words (pinot noir, anyone?), "See You" a brief essay for solo piano.
The same holds true on Permanent Vacation, wherein Johansson's graceful melodies are given added color by his longtime friend and colleague, Ingemarsson, with whom he has recorded before. "Thanks HSM and Goodbye" and "Permanent Vacation" apparently refer to Johansson's retirement after thirty-four years of teaching piano, most recently at the State College of Music in Goteborg. While "Raymond on the Bike" remains unknown, he seems to be having a marvelous ride, something that holds true for the listener throughout both these splendid albums by one of the most accomplished trios you've probably never heard.
Tracks and Personnel
Thought and Memory
Tracks: Wednesday Came to a Crossroads; Some Characters and Incidents are Fictitious; Interlude I; Salt Water Rocket; Interlude II; Thought and Memory; Gunslinging Bird; Interlude III; Better Get Hit in Your Soul.
Personnel: Keith Karns: composer, arranger, trumpet; Jeff Walk: trumpet; Paul Stodolka: trumpet; Elizabeth Tomlinson: trumpet; Josh Fuchs: trumpet; Jim Geddes, Justin Kevan, Aaron Hedenstrom, Brian Handeland, Jon Vallejo: saxophones; Joe Hartson: trombone; Nick Syman: trombone; Jason Marshall: trombone; Josh Becker: trombone; Steve Hobert: piano; Ken Ge: bass; Brian Claxton: drums; Courtney Karns: vocals.
At This Time
Tracks: Nor-Bop; Tuesday Overture; Line-Up; Vicinity; Random Orders; Quick, Change!; It's Complicated; At This Time; Secret Love; Going Way Up.
Personnel: Norman David: composer, arranger, soprano sax; Dennis Wasko: trumpet; Tim Hagans: trumpet; Dick Oatts: alto, soprano sax; George Garzone: tenor sax; Mark Allen: baritone, tenor sax; Randy Kapralick: trombone; Jarred Antonacci: trombone; Tom Lawton: piano; John Hebert: bass; Dan Monaghan: drums.
Tracks: Blues for Bonnie Belle; How 'Bout Now; Speak to Me; Chutes and Ladders; Finding the Evidence; Psalm to Hymn.
Personnel: Fred Hess: composer, arranger, tenor sax; Tyler Gilmore: conductor; Pete Olstad: trumpet; Dave Rajewski: trumpet; Al Hood: trumpet; Ron Miles: trumpet; John Gunther, Wil Swindler, Peter Sommer, Mark Harris: reeds; John Fedchock: trombone; Nelson Hinds: trombone; Hoyt Andres: trombone; Gary Mayne: trombone; Marc Sabatella: piano; Greg Garrison: bass; Matt Wilson: drums.
Woman Dreaming of Escape
Tracks: Hurry; Mujer Sonando con la Evasion; Chacarera para Greg; Candombe Estirado; Miniatura Cromatica; D E F G Blues.
Personnel: Florencia Gonzalez: composer, arranger, leader; Josh Mizruchi: trumpet, flugelhorn; Greg Marchand: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sam Dechenne: trumpet, flugelhorn; Chris Kottke: trumpet, flugelhorn; Art Felluca: alto sax, clarinet, flute; Nick Brust: alto sax, clarinet, flute; Andy Voelker: tenor, soprano sax; Andrew Halchak: tenor sax, clarinet, flute; Mike Jacobs: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Susanna Quilter: flute; Sofia Gonzalez: flute; Tim Schneier: trombone; Pete Fanelli: trombone; David Schwartz: bass trombone; Diego Porchile: guitar; Andrew Washburn: piano; Mariana Iranzi: bass; Franco Pinna: drums.
Our Path to This Moment
Tracks: Our Path to This Moment; Rise and Fall; It's You or No One; Kunlangeta; The Promise; Jessie's Song; Wayfaring Stranger.