bassist Marc Johnson released on the label of Verve Records.
The poetry implied in the title of Marc Johnson's latest disc is very
much a part of who he is and the way he creates music. He's one of those
bassists who makes his presence felt rather than known. Listen to how
he coalesces with Bill Evans on Turn Out The Stars (Warner Bros.) or both volumes of the still-not-on-CD gem Paris Concerts.
He follows deeply explored paths, without tripping for effect or
falling all over the soloist to capture the spotlight. Even when he is
exploring in center stage, he doesn't break mood for downbeat
introspection or wild flings. Considering the diversity of music he's
explored (with Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Pat Martino and Elaine Elias),
Marc Johnson realizes a true jazz axiom: he strives and often achieves
to capture experiences that are intended to be sensed, not described.
That's why it's difficult to attach words or comments to a beautiful disc like The Sound of Summer Running.
It's like what you think about the wind. Either it reaches you
emotionally and spiritually deep within or you just never think about
it. Johnson adds two significant string stylists in Bill Frisell and Pat
Metheny and rounds it out with a drummer who can handle (or join) any
style well, Joey Baron. A more simpatico quartet of musical explorers is
difficult to imagine. The thrill of hearing Frisell with Metheny is
especially rewarding (even more so since Metheny avoids his dreaded
guitar synth altogether here).
The Sound of Summer Running
is a follow-up of sorts to Baron's highest profile gig, Bass Desires.
For that quartet, Johnson brought together emerging guitarists (and
forces of nature), Bill Frisell and John Scofield, added drummer Peter
Erskine and recorded two ECM albums, including its debut, Bass Desires—which
remains the best, most memorable release of the eighties. The same
welcome "sound of surprise" from that 1985 group is all over the place
on this 1998 release.
Johnson wrote or co-wrote seven of the ten
tunes, all so seemingly warm and familiar as if to be standards. Even
the improvisation is sufficiently song-like as to melt into the melody.
The high level of improvisation is, in fact, the element of this music's
success. Johnson, Frisell, Metheny and Baron all have the considerable
ability to think and react outside of jazz. And the musical forms they
explore never bog down by preconceived notions of jazz nor suffer the
spruced-up hyperbole of native instrumentation.
Consider it a sort
of Music Americana. It takes in country pop ("Faith in You"), Western
(Frisell's evocative "Ghost Town"), slow hillbilly blues ("With My Boots
On," one of Johnson's few features), folk (the finger-snapping "Union
Pacific") and rockabilly ("Dingy-Dongy Day"). What sets The Sound of Summer Running
apart, oddly, are those moments that will be most familiar to jazz
listeners. There is Johnson's mellifluous, hit-worthy Metheny tribute,
"Summer Running," (featuring notable Frisell fret work). Then check out
how Metheny dances over Frisell's Frisell-like "The Adventures of Max
and Ben." Or dig how expertly Metheny crafts a Bill Evans-like synergy
for the quartet on "For a Thousand Years," perhaps his grandest moment
as a composer and a sumptuous showcase for Johnson's playing.
The Sound of Summer Running
is the sound of creative music attaining a beauty and personality too
rarely heard in contemporary jazz—and another feather in the cap of this
45-year-old bassist's musical history. During the last minute or so of
the disc's final track, there are some brief musical sketches (including
"House of the Rising Sun") included that suggest this quartet has so
much more to say. Here's hoping they have the opportunity.
should be also made of this disc's producer, Lee Townsend, who has been
at the helm of all of 1998's best, most creative jazz: from Joey Baron,
Bill Frisell and Marc Johnson to John Scofield's excellent
collaboration with Medeski, Martin and Wood, A Go Go (also on Verve).
I had no idea who bassist Marc Johnson was before I bought this
beautiful 1998 release. The first thing that caught my attention was the
picture of the little girl on the CD cover. The sky was so blue, and
she looked so happy and carefree that I was just drawn - and not in a
sinister way, mind you. It's just that somehow in my mind, I thought
that if this CD could make me feel as happy and carefree as she looked, I
The second thing that caught my eye (and clinched the
deal) was the clear sticker on the front of the CD which told me that
Pat Metheny was on it. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Pat
doesn't just play with anyone and I knew even without listening to it,
that this was an album I would love. Well, that was eight years ago and
this is still one of my favorite CDs ever.
I didn't know who
Bill Frisell was either at that time but since buying this, I've become a
huge fan of both Johnson and Frisell, who by the way gives one of the
most exciting performances on this album that I've heard from him yet. I
say it with the utmost respect, both to him and any other guitarists
he's played with but I believe that with Metheny playing alongside him,
Frisell simply had to raise his game to the utmost. And he truly does.
Baron's drumming is incredible and right from the opener, "Faith In
You", all participants let us know what we're in for: An hour or so of
pure enjoyment. Johnson pens all the songs except for Bill Frisell's
"Ghost Town"; a really good version of the tune he used to title his
excellent CD of the same name in 2000 (another one I never got round to
reviewing) and "The Adventures of Max and Ben". "In a Quiet Place" was
written by Johnson and Eliane Elias and the beautiful closer, "For a
Thousand Years", was written by Metheny.
Bill Frisell plays
electric and acoustic guitars, Pat Metheny plays electric guitar,
acoustic guitar and 42-string pikasso guitar, and Joey Baron plays drums
and tambourine. Produced by the seemingly omniscient Lee Townsend, this
excellent CD is truly the Sound of Summer Running. I love all the songs
but the opener and closer are still firm favorites.
I am a big enthusiast of Pat Metheny's music. This was my first contact with Bill Frisell, who can rival in talent with Metheny.
was a great surprise to hear such instrumental album, even though
sometimes it just gets distant from standard jazz, from such great
It evokes memories from places we might have never seen but gets to musically make these places close.
title is maybe a quote to a Ray Bradbury short tale where the author
remembers his youth after buying a new sport shoes and goes around the
fields to run while the summer starts.
While it musically traces the atmospheres of the country side of America, it also presents a summary of the music
we would hear there.
Bill Frisell and Metheny simply create very inspiring guitar melodies.
the music might not be complex, after all it is based on simple ideas,
it is rich and it will please your brain and fill it with images.
01. "Faith In You" 5:53
02. "Ghost Town" 5:35
03. "Summer Running" 5:56
04. "With My Boots On" 4:25
05. "Union Pacific" 5:29
06. "Porch Swing" 4:12
07. "Dingy-Dong Day" 3:51
08. "The Adventures Of Max And Ben" 6:08
09. "In A Quiet Place" 5:17
10. "For A Thousand Years" 6:28
Marc Johnson – bass
Bill Frisell – electric & acoustic guitars
Pat Metheny – electric & acoustic guitar (42-string Pikasso)
Joey Baron – drums & tambourine
Tracks 1 3 4 5 6 7 composed by – Marc Johnson
Tracks 2 8 composed by – Bill Frisell
Track 9 composed by – Eliane Elias & Marc Johnson
Track 10 composed by – Pat Metheny