Leslie Johnson, “Walk It Off” from #3 (2018): Something Else! Sneak Peek
Leslie Johnson’s “Walk It Off” represents a welcome return. The composer, arranger and bass maestro’s last album, 2015’s Leslie Johnson Project, featured a who’s who of jazz-fusion superstars. If “Walk It Off” is any indication, the forthcoming album it hails from – aptly titled #3 – will be another feather in the Guatemalan-born, Texas-based musician’s cap.
“Walk It Off” features Hedra Ramos, a Los Angeles-based guitarist who has a hard-rocking metal pedigree but also boasts formidable jazz chops – which he demonstrated on the Leslie Johnson Project album. On “Walk It Off,” Ramos and Johnson start things off with a smoldering funky groove. Johnson’s tone is dark and fuzzy, complimenting Ramos’ melodic flair.
Touches of Fender Rhodes, synth and a funky backbeat swirl, as Ramos’ guitar presents the track’s main theme. Without warning, the mood shifts to a controlled frenzy, as Leslie Johnson’s bass bounces around with the syncopated bass drum and high hat cymbal before settling back to the main core.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Leslie Johnson joins Preston Frazier to discuss the ‘Leslie Johnson Project,’ its predecessor ‘Bass & Beyond,’ and his journey — both musical and personal.]
Johnson’s skill as a player is obvious, but what’s almost overlooked is his craftsmanship as an arranger and producer. The multi-tasked bass (are there touches of fretless here?) is brilliantly clear and nuanced. Also, the segments tie in perfectly here. Ramos’ mid-song turn is a jazz-fusion delight, shifting in mood and texture. Johnson’s distorted filter-like bass solo matches Ramos’ in passion, while boosting “Walk It Off” once more.
The song seems to rise to an even higher level but quickly ends, leaving me to want a few more bars of bass. All that’s left to do is wait until March 30, 2018, when Leslie Johnson shares the rest of #3.