Plas Johnson (ts, as, bs), Paul Smith, Ray Johnson (p), Ernie Freeman (org), Larry Bunker, Gene Estes, Vic Feldman (vib), Howard Roberts, Bill Pitman (g), Red Callender (b), Earl Palmer (d), Gerald Wilson, Rene Hall (arr)
Reference: FSRCD 818
Bar code: 8427328608183
During the late Fifties and early Sixties in the US the saxophone of Plas Johnson was a ubiquitous sound on radio. Known as the horn behind the hits, he was famous as the tenor sax on the celebrated 1963 Pink Panther main theme recording. Born near New Orleans, he moved to the west coast at a very young age and there launched a career that made him one of the most sought-after studio musicians on the Los Angeles scene, with a great reputation built largely on his remarkable ability to play any style of music with taste and restraint.
The two Capitol albums here epitomize this. On "This Must Be the Plas!" (1959), he is accompanied by three small groups with slight personnel changes, and although Plas is the main voiceon tenor, baritone and alto saxeverybody else in the group has his own solo space. "Mood for the Blues" (1960) features Plas on tenor with strings and rhythm, the tasteful arrangements of Gerald Wilson and René Hall forming a fine background for his solo work. Also included here is his first single for Capitol, including his smash hit The Big Twist and Come Rain or Come Shine.
His warm tone and naturally easy style is as greatly admired by other musicians as it is by jazz and pop music fans. It resulted in the kind of soulful, pretty and well-controlled sound that gave universal enjoyment.
"I really do not like jazz with a string section which, Im afraid colours my comments about this album as 12 of the 26 tracks have a very prominent string section which manages, as do almost all similar intrusions, to reduce most of the tracks to elevator music, all sounding almost identical. It seemed to be a popular thing to do in the late 1950s. Anyway, when it can be heard Johnsons tenor sounds fine.
On the other hand the first 12 tracks deserve four stars in that they permit Johnson to play excellently throughout a selection of ballads and standards with very sympathetic and supportive backing. Whether on the faster tracks such as Too Close For Comfort or the gentler ballads including If I Had You on which Johnson plays baritone rather than his usual tenor sax he places his own interpretation on the compositions. The presence of Freeman on organ gives a funky leaning on some titles and there is a nicely varied approach through the 12 tracks. The final two bonus tracks from a couple of years earlier are of a commercial nature particularly Come Rain Or Come Shine, which has a female chorus. The other bonus track was Johnsons debut single recording for Capitol who issued all the originals on this CD.
As usual with Fresh Sound the sound quality is very good, the recording details are complete and there is a good background essay from Jordi Pujol [...]"
Jerry Brown -April, 2014
"[...] Ténor tendre et viril parfois relayé à lalto ou baryton sur This Must Be, rythmes dansants que les cordes de Gerald Wilson et René Hall caramélise sur Mood For The Blues. En bonus, le single qui installa Plas chez Capitol en 1957. Linfatigable Jordi Pujol crédite au titre près tous les musiciens [...]"
Alfred Sordoillet (April, 2014)
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