Thursday, March 5, 2009

LaMont Johnson - "Aces" (1979)

LaMont Johnson returns three years after "Nine : A Mystical Musical Allegory", and rather surprisingly - when you read his liner notes at that last post - names his album "Aces" rather than "Twelve".

In the course of those three years, he seems to have been preoccupied with his work as a kung fu movie producer and his parallel career as a rising star in the Church of Scientology, with this being his first recording since that last album. Too busy "auditing" those girls on the front cover? We may never know ...

Arkadin (check his great new blog) and I had an interesting discussion in the comments of the "Nine" post, and dug up an old Scientology brochure on ebay which describes a very alternate Johnson universe to that described in his official biography statements. Since that will disappear in a few days, I've archived the text and brochure scans here.

But back to the music : Even though the cover's been immortalised on Crap Jazz Covers, there's some good music to be found here, even if it doesn't have the range of "Nine". Johnson's mainly on piano, with some occasional rhodes and subtle synth.

I really like his piano work here - all in all, the album's not too 1979 apart from the slight overuse of reverbed space. I remember being in studios in the late 70s - we were all quite enamoured with the hastening development of reverb units, and everything sounded 'interesting' through a cloud of reverb when you wore headphones ...

The careers of the musicians are mostly a mystery to me and Google, apart from trumpet player Gary Pack, who worked on several albums with Stan Kenton. Several of the players seem to have started off with this album, but haven't gone on to a lot of high profile work.

The title track "Aces" (preview above) has been comped on one of those Kon and Amir collections. It's got a nice loping unison melody from trumpeter Gary Pack and saxophonist John Rekenics - who work really well together in general on this session - against a string synth background multi-tracked with Johnson's piano, leading to a sparse synth solo. "Virunga Dance" and "Life Is a Sweet Thing" are other nice tracks with a similar but more acoustic feel.

Generally, LaMont Johnson is reaching back to his post-bop roots in terms of his arrangements of tracks like "Second Hand Child", while the harmonic structures cross broader fields in tracks like the Kenny Barron-like "Midnite Mind Mosaic", which references Brazilian jazz changes. I'm not too taken with the presence of guitarist Bill Coleman, who really needs to turn off his damn chorus pedal (or Fender amp chorus dial, it's one or the other) - things are generally better when he's shuffled into the background. Nevertheless, some great stuff here, and the best $4 buy I've made in a while.


01. Aces
02. Virunga Dance
03. Nina
04. Europa
05. Second Hand Child
06. Midnite Mind Mosaic
07. Life Is a Sweet Thing (5:24)

All compositions and arrangements by LaMont Johnson


LaMont Johnson - keyboards, vibraslap
Gary Pack - trumpet, flugelhorn, afuche
John Rekevics - soprano, tenor and alto saxaphones, flute
Bill Coleman - guitar
Gunnar Biggs - contrabass
Tim Shea - drums, triangle, apito, african agogo bells


Aces - the LaMont Johnson Sextette
A MasterScores production
Produced by Don Harris and France Johnson
Composed and Arranged by LaMont Johnson
Recorded at Western Audio Recording Studios, San Diego, California
on November 20 and 21, 1979.
Cover Design : Lalo Donfra Concepts
Production and Design Coordinator : Mitzi Lopez
Cover Photos : T.Michael Russell
Cover Photo Tinting : Lee Kromschroeder
Backliner photos : Russell Puls
Graphics : Bonkers Graphic Design, Noreen Bonker



swboy said...

I saw the Avax repost of all your work on the Herbie Hancock music. No attribution. Just terrible.

Simon666 said...

yeah, pretty sad stuff. He started abusing me here on the Hancock bootleg thread as well.

MFS Equipe ♪ said...

Thank you for this one Simon, very dope!

ish said...

Hey Simon this turns out to be such a cool record despite that cover. Really enjoying it on my very first listen. The synth noodling on the title track is of the fun kind. Terrific vibe. Trumpeter's got a great sound. Glad you dug this one up....makes me a little sad that this guy was so hidden.

Solomon said...

Thank you.

Flormega said...

thanks a lot!

allmusicman said...

many thanks for this coole awesome drop simon!!!

Gianni aka Cesare Barbetta said...

thank you Simon.
I missed this Lamont release.

thanks again

Miles said...


I wasn't aware of this release. No doubt I was put off by the unspeakably bad cover. What's up with the one lady whose breast is falling out of her dress? But moreso, is that a milk bottle inexplicably and pointlessly positioned just below it? Maybe there's more going on here than I'm getting.

Thanks for sharing the music however. If ever there were a time to create one of your own jackets, now wuld have been it.

Simon666 said...

Well my comment over at CJCovers was that perhaps someone asked her to show her hand, and she decided to show her breast instead? But anyway good to have you here enjoying the music Miles :)

blackclassical said...


Miles said...


this is a sweet date! 'nine' was one title that i've always regretted losing in a necessary purge years ago. but this one? who would have ever known from the exceptionally high quality of the artwork? i guess it is unfair to judge a book by its cover, but this one certainly does the music inside a disfavor. thanks again.

Anonymous said...

this stuff is ace. no pun intended.

jdayal said...

Nice post Simon, good to see U stiill at it. I hope all is well my friend.

Simon666 said...

Thanks for comments guys.
Good to see you round here jdayal :)

flageolette said...

Many thanks for uploading!

Highly appreciated over here,

Simon666 said...

Flagolette - funny, I think we left comments at each other's blogs at exactly the same time! :)

Well I'll send people to the one I just got from yours :
(great italian jazz comp)

flageolette said...

We're injected with time code!!

muchosoul said...

thanks for the extended education

Dusty Jeeves said...

Simon! Wow this is great! I have been absent from the blogosphere for nearly a year and have just returned to find all your wonderful music! when i first visited this site you'd only just uploaded your first 'never enough rhodes' compilation, and now there is tonnes of fantastic music here - incredible! anyway, really enjoyed this - always good that SOMEONE will bother to listen to a record with such a cover - never know what might turn up! thanks again, and i will keep checking back!

katonah said...

I know it's late in the day, but been playing this for a while since greg mentioned it was a stormer. i can't think of a more misleading cover. verunga dance is killer, with aces just beaten by a nose.
thanks simon

sasha said...

Wow!! Lamont Johnson..Now there's a name to conjure with!! Remember his awesome playing on 'Old Gosple' on Jackie/Ornette Blue Note circa. 1967..That and so much else..So glad you have made his own sessions available here..'Virunga Dance' is, to quote from the esteemed Kantonah, a kiler..Has to go down as one of the cheesiest covers ever!

catacaldos said...

Great post
Thank you

GettingChinky said...

So, LaMont Johnson is my father, but I don't know that much about him. I have been searching for information about him for so long, with really no succces, however I do feel like I've gotten so much closer to him just by reading your blog. I happen to have personal/ family photos of him - if you would like to "trade" for more information.

Simon666 said...

Hi Kyleigh,
Thanks for stopping by.
Most of what I know about your father is in the post - I researched him online when writing it. Checking through my notes, I also took some information from some cached information that seems to have been written when he was setting up Masterscores, see here :

I also have a word document that I kept. It has text from the above link, plus a few other bits and pieces I copied from online. If you drop me an email (click my name, it goes to my profile with the email), then I'm happy to send that to you as well.
All the best,

fritz the cat said...

Judging from the crap cover, I was expecting some Johnny Guitar Watson kind of clone, but it's nothing like at all. Very nice, thanks for sharing it.

Simon666 said...

Glad you enjoyed it Fritz. The cover has become something of a photoshop mainstay over at Crap Jazz Covers :)

Simon666 said...

Kyleigh, if you're still following this thread, a childhood friend of your dad has just posted on another LaMont Johnson post here :

Ms.BeatJunkie!!! said...

what an awesome record! WOW

Ms.BeatJunkie!!! said...

what an awesome share, fine, and album

Simon666 said...

Thanks Ms. Beatjunkie :)

Kyleigh Dowling said...

Simon - it's Kyleigh Dowling (LaMont's daughter) posting again as I do every few years. By any chance, do you still have copies of those ebay scans of his scientology brochure you'd be willing to email me? I would truly appreciate it!

timondrums said...

I played drums on it. We all had a very good time, especially LaMont.