Maurice Johnson’s debut, “Tonight,” is contemporary jazz at its epitome. Although most of the album is neither truly inventive nor groundbreaking, his stylings are certainly worthy of a thorough listen, even if the offering isn’t enough for much more than that.
A veteran guitarist, Johnson formed Oklahoma’s popular After Five Jazz Band in 1985 and released one CD with the group, “Expressions,” in 1992.
His solo effort, released in January by Oklahoma City’s Jazz Drops Records, is a mix of his creation, barring one track co-written by fellow smooth-jazz musician Gary Fuston. Johnson is clearly a master at musical arrangement and rhythm, as each “Tonight” track flows smoothly into the next, leaving the impression of a single, hour-long piece, rather than 12 distinct songs.
Most notable is “It Must’ve Been a Dream,” a Bob Marley-esque take on the jazz genre. The steady, easy beats and Johnson’s steely guitar cut a clean break in an otherwise even set. “Not Lately” is a random, semi-danceable track, although its grooviness is probably more suited to the likes of a 60/40 bar than a hip-hop club or jazz lounge.
Johnson seems to be simply reinventing’ or rather, duplicating’ the wheel with the debut. “Tonight” is a bit formulaic and a little dusty, but the album certainly deserves attention for its clean, concise arrangement. His talent as a musician is undeniable, but his abilities as an innovator leave much to be desired.
For more information, visit http://www.jazzdrops.com. “Emily Hopkins