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Marc Johnson
The Sound of Summer Running,  Verve CD 314 539 299-2, 1998

 America jazz groove

Marc Johnson’s latest album continues the work he’s started on  Bass Desires, using two guitars, drums and his own melodic bass to explore his original themes. This time out he’s got Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell in the six-string chairs and Joey Baron behind the trap set. If you associate Johnson with the dark moody sounds of the ECM label, then this bright appealing set will be a complete surprise. By the time you get through the drum solo in the first song, "Faith In You," you know this record is going somewhere different. Imagine that the Ventures had studied at Berklee and then went to Nashville for their first record.

These songs sound like they could have come out of your car radio in the Midwest during the early ’60s. This is music by Americans who grew up on folk songs, surf tunes, and electric guitars. You can tell they had a good time playing back and forth. Johnson has absorbed the sound of masters like Scott LaFaro to create his warm round tone, but he knows his James Jamerson chops, too. Frisell’s solos continue to explore the terrain of the American folk song as he’s done on  Nashville. Metheny adds his textural layers to create an almost vocal quality to the guitar duets. And Baron pounds his brushes and snare to sound almost like Ringo in places.

Listen to the groove that Johnson and drummer Baron lay down in "With My Boots On" and "Union Pacific." Check out the surf guitars on "Dingy-Dong Day." Pour a glass of lemonade and listen again to the solos on "Porch Swing." And tell me what song you hear in the fade of "For a Thousand Years." Yep–that was "House of the Rising Sun," wasn’t it?

I don’t know what makes these songs so appealing. Maybe it’s because these guys all grew up in the heartland (well, I’m not sure about Baron, but the others are all products of the plains and mountain states) and they know the power of simplicity. But it’s deceptive, because the interplay is at such a high level. So stretch out on the lawn in the sun and let this music play through the window. Or take it on your next long road trip. This can be the soundtrack for your own summer movie in the making.– Gerry Lenocker

Copyright © 1998 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.