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CD Review: Howard Johnson and Gravity


Last Updated: 08/16/2017 9:27 am

Howard Johnson and Gravity Testimony

(2017, Tuscarora)

Suspend all preconceptions of what the tuba can do until listening to Howard Johnson and Gravity's Testimony, and you will be more than pleasantly surprised. Far from being limited to providing the bass line in a brass band or portraying Tubby in an orchestra, the tuba becomes a vessel of expansive tonality, and, in genius/visionary Johnson's hands, a medium of masterful improvisation equal to any trumpet. Johnson long ago established his bona fides working with the likes of Charles Mingus, Gil Evans, the Band, and Jack DeJohnette. Herein Johnson, a staple of Levon Helm's Midnight Rambles in Woodstock, displays his prowess as frontman and arranger—he veritably sings through his instrument on Carole King's "Natural Woman" and finds fresh inspiration in two numbers by McCoy Tyner. He also flies on several tunes that feature an ensemble of fellow tubists. Forget the cowbell—more tuba!

—Seth Rogovoy


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