Monday, 24 September 2018

Review: TJ Johnson

“BLUES songs tend to be all about pain, misery and suffering,” said TJ Johnson, flicking the switch on his keyboard

“BLUES songs tend to be all about pain, misery and suffering,” said TJ Johnson, flicking the switch on his keyboard to gospel organ mode, “and this one is no different.”

Good Rollin’ Blues by one of his jazz heroes, Jimmy Witherspoon, was indeed full of the usual highly-entertaining angst about a man whose woman ain’t no good. The fabulous thing about such numbers is that you empathise fully with said bluesman as he wails about his broken heart whilst at the same time garnering from between the lines that he’s not exactly a law-abiding paragon of respectability and husbandly virtue himself.

TJ Johnson describes himself as the “king of dirty jazz, backroom swing and rhythm and blues” and though there’s been plenty of competition over the decades for such an accolade, he pretty much lived up to it on Friday night. Such was his bluesy swagger than he even managed to transform Goring Village Hall — usually the meeting place for the WI and parish council — into a dusky jazz joint.

TJ, who can also regularly be spotted at venues like Ronnie Scott’s, is a forty-something singer with a deep, resonant voice full of anguish and soul, and from the way he plays the piano, with those tricksy little jazz trills and bluesy chord changes, you can tell he is passionate about this type of music.

He was ably abetted by his four-piece rhythm and blues band made up of drums, jazz guitar/banjo, tenor sax and double bass. This was indeed a tight band, and each musician was not only accomplished but looked like he was having a ball. That’s always a good start.

The numbers alternated between uptempo Dixieland tunes like Suwannee River and blues songs from some of the old greats, including Big Joe Turner. Most memorable was a fabulous arrangement of the classic ’Til There Was You.

Al Nicholls elicited some horny riffs from his tenor sax and Tony Pitt, easily the most senior member of the band, played his socks off on guitar and banjo.

For anyone out there who likes jazz, blues, or just the chance to see some great live musicians in action, these live jazz nights in Goring come highly recommended. The next event, on April 12, features Acker Bilk and his Paramount Band. Box office: (01491) 875758.

TJ Johnson and his Rhythm and Blues Band

Goring Hall Jazz Society, Goring Village Hall

Friday, February 8

Lesley Potter

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