Pavilion" is like a big welcome to Johnson’s musical world as he takes you by the "ear." A whole room of talented comrades jam along as if to smile warmly to the arriving guests. Then they announce the "Coming of the New," keeping the funk light and lively. Marshall Keys lays out the info on sax about what’s gonna go down.
"18th Street Loungin’" opens with a "heart-beat" for a few seconds that leads to a sensuous, cool experience. Though seductive, it’s not overheated. The relaxing piano and guitar covers the entire piece as to make the night beautiful. Johnson gets vocal with the deep "On My Mind." This smooth danceable track is short and sweet, but powerfully funky at the same time. Johnson doesn’t just lay in one style; he jumps into variety, but maintains the equilibrium that makes this CD so enjoyable.
There’s also a very intellectual chord struck here, but it never drops the ball. These titles lead, but can mislead. The track may be named "Funk Master," but you’re not gonna get the hard "R & B" style bomp and stomp. It’s "jazz" and Johnson and his bandmates are determined not to confuse you. It is his tasteful restraint in this case, that he’s "mastered."
Alyson Williams partnered with Johnson in arranging, but her tastefully suggestive vocals seem to know the answer to "Is It Good To You." This track could and should really kick commercially as well as in the jazz market. The instrumental elements are tight and ready to travel to the midnight treasure along with Williams. As we travel "Down Home," Johnson updates an old theme. This has the youth and exuberance that’s quite different from the vibe we dug in the sixties, but tributes the Hammond-sax combo with respect.
I’m not quite sure what "Hormone" is saying, though it’s a pleasant piece, but "Plush" is downright late-night. Perhaps it picks up where the previous track left off. This mellow, but heated track is ripe with sexy keyboards that tell it like it is. Eric Valentine gives some suggestions of his own by building up some tension on the drums. Enough said, people! No, there’s more.... ."In You There’s Me" draws the listener tenderly with some of the most beautiful piano on this CD. Stanley Cooper has been in the groove throughout with equally powerful support. "The Puzzle" is a beautiful solo closing piece, that may be asking you to piece it all together and come up with your own answer. Romance? You bet.... .and so much more. "Romance" doesn’t totally sum up what’s here. The title does, but why impose limits? This disc has the power to be whatever you require. It should be a winner!