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The James P. Johnson Songbook

Arbors Jazz ARCD 19427



1. 'Sippi
2. Hungry Blues
3. I Need Lovin'
4. I Was So Weak, Love Was So Strong
5. Alabama Stomp
6. Old Fashioned Love
7. Stop That Dog
8. If I Could Be With You
9. Charleston
10. My Headache
11. Don't Cry Baby
12. Ain'tcha Got Music
13. A Porter's Love Song to a Chamber Maid
14. Harlem Woogie

Marty Grosz - Guitar, banjo, vocals, all arrangements
James Dapogny - Piano, celeste
Dan Block - Clarinet, bass clarinet
Jon-Erik Kellso - Trumpet
Scott Robinson - Soprano, C-Melody and baritone saxes
Vince Giordano - String bass, tuba, bass sax
Arnie Kinsella - Drums, temple blocks
"Panic Slim" Jim Gicking - Guitar (track 14)


James P. Johnson is better known as a pianist than as a composer. Yet he composed many tunes for Broadway musicals from the 1920s onwards, and wrote more substantial works for the concert hall. In fact, as a recent CD showed, he composed symphonies and concertos.

Marty Grosz deserves praise for digging out many neglected songs by Johnson. Of the items on this album, only three songs are probably familiar to most jazz fans. Of these three, Old Fashioned Love is given a Fats Waller-style vocal by Marty, and he also sings If I Could Be With You and A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid (this last including the verse and some typical Grosz behaviour).

Marty wrote all the arrangements, and they have the right period atmosphere. Jelly Roll Morton's "Spanish Tinge" enlivens Alabama Stomp and Charleston. If I Could Be With You is performed simply by trumpet, soprano sax, guitar and bas. Grosz has assembled a group which is able to do the songs justice. Pianist James Dapogny can play in a flowing style reminiscent of James P. Johnson's lyrical pieces - and he can also replicate Johnson's stride piano style. He turns to the delicate celeste in Charleston. Trumpeter Jon-Erik Kellso supplies some first-class solos, bending notes to add expression (hear his fluttering trumpet in Stop That Dog), and Marty himself strums nicely on guitar and banjo. Scott Robinson is a tower of strength on various saxophones. The final Harlem Woogie brings in Jim Gicking to join in a guitar duet with Marty.

Like most Marty Grosz albums, this one is full of good humour and occasional outlandishness, but Marty's devotion to James P.'s music is clearly sincere. The result is a cheerful album which pays genuine tribute to James P. Johnson.

Tony Augarde

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