Kelley Johnson continues her stride in the world of jazz. Her fifth album, “Something Good,” is a page out of the Great American Songbook, but it is a page uniquely written by Johnson.
Johnson’s work has been lauded for its rich sound. Downbeat magazine referred to Johnson’s rhythm section as “sailing, buoyant” and gave accolades for her “bright, eminently convincing musicianship.”
In ten songs, “Something Good” shines a light on Johnson and her ensemble’s talents. The work is inspired, clear and a sonic delight. “These songs are about being an artist, being a partner, and being a daughter,” Johnson says. “Whether a song is about love or spiritual pursuit, it’s really all the same path to acceptance.”
About Kelley Johnson
A native of the Midwest, Johnson has lived in Seattle for a number of years and regularly performs in the city famous for being the hometown of iconic rock musicians.
Johnson went on lengthy tours abroad in 2004 and 2008. The tours were a part of the US State Department’s Jazz Ambassadors program. The program was developed in 1956 and is currently sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The debut album, “Make Someone Happy” (1998) kicked off Johnson’s career. In 2003, she won first place in the International JazzConnect Vocal Competition for her album “Music is the Magic.” Other recordings include “Live at Birdland” (2004) and “Home” (2011).voice
The sound of “Something Good” by Kelley Johnson
Depending on listeners’ tastes, there is no single “best” song on the album. There are a series of classics that have re-interpreted by Johnson. Two tracks that certainly garner attention are “Let’s Do It” and “Tip Toe Gently.” Johnson swings best with a little sass, and these songs allow her to do just that. Amid a deep rumble of bass, spirited horns and shimmering drums, Johnson’s voice shines clear. Her phrasing will remind listeners of jazz singers of yesteryear. Even when she vamps, or smears the line for style, Johnson’s experience is evident.
On “Let’s Do It” Johnson is playful but serious about the music and the theme. It should be noted that throughout the album, Johnson works in some vamping that should not be missed. The song takes advantage of Johnson’s light voice and ability to flick through syllables crisply. Her approach allows listeners to hear every word and to appreciate the humor of the lines.
“Tip Toe Gently” finds Johnson’s voice playing off the deep bass notes that take charge of the soundscape. Johnson’s treatment of phrases such as “wake up” and “break up” help to finely craft the narrative of the lyrics. This isn’t a real romance; it is one that is being dreamt of by the narrator, whose fear of waking is guided by the knowledge that if she wakes, the romance is over. The rhythm is snappy and the tune is catchy overall. Whether or not listeners are familiar with the original, Johnson’s version is wholly satisfying.
“Something Good” is both the name of Johnson’s album and one of the songs. It is also an apt phrase to describe an album that puts together some of the most memorable songs in jazz, but manages to make them sound new again.