GAIL JHONSON: Pearls (Label: Nu Groove Records)

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Gail Jhonson (no – not a typo – that’s how she spells her name!) is a new (to me at least) smooth jazz piano player. Liner notes suggest that she began her playing in the churches of Philadelphia but don’t expect fire and brimstone here. Indeed there’s not a lot of passion at all – but that’s not what you expect from smooth jazz, is it? People come to the genre for clarity and charm, good tunes and a gentle temperance, and there’s plenty of all that here. What attracted me to the set is the lady’s defined and almost percussive playing. Throughout it reminded me of that fine Texan keyboardist, Joe McBride and one track in particular – ‘My Soldier’ – reminded me a lot of Joe’s wonderful take on ‘Walking In Rhythm’. On that cut Gail’s joined by Pieces Of A Dream main man, James Lloyd, and generally the album’s better cuts are those that feature input from other players. So the LP’s title cut is enriched by some nifty sax work from Marion Meadows while Norman Brown’s incisive guitar adds fuller flavour to the closer ‘Soleh’. Elsewhere Ms. Jhonson show her prowess on a gentle ‘Moments Of Love’, while ‘Runnin’ Around’ is the track that perhaps come closest to the traditionally typical smooth jazz template.
(BB) 3/5