Mark Johnson Contemporary Jazz Review

cover to the 1994 debut self-titled album by contemporary jazz saxophonist Mark Johnson
John Hilderbrand Avatar

I wrote this review in 1994, when Mark Johnson’s debut self-titled solo recording was released:

With so many saxophonists trying to copy the funky Sanborn sound, it’s difficult for new artists not to get lost in the shuffle. A new release has to really have a good, strong sound and great songs to stand out in the crowd. More artists fail than succeed, but Mark Johnson sounds like one of the winners.

His self-titled debut release showcases a funky style and sense of melody like few new artists can.

It would be difficult to tell that Johnson had such a strong funk feel judging by his previous work.

Johnson has worked with George Jinda (of Special EFX) on his World News projects and on harpist Deborah Henson-Conant’s Budapest release.

Mark Johnson leaves no doubt as to what type of jazz he likes to play. With titles like “She’s So Funktional” and “Funky James” (for the Godfather of Soul, naturally), you get the idea.

Johnson’s powerful sound on alto, baritone, and soprano saxophones is prevalent on every track. And the music itself is fun. It’s hard to keep from dancing listening to the catchy melody of “Exit 33” or the single “Come On.”

Aside from sheer talent. another factor that sets this release apart is the production of George Jinda. His percussion and soundscapes really add a new element to the music. “Street Samba” and “Bad Influence” would be mere token funk tracks without his presence.

Johnson has put together a formidable debut release. He may be one of the leaders in the next generation of saxophonists.

John Hilderbrand Avatar

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