Johnny is an inductee in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame … deservedly so. Listen to this very fine and well-put-together CD, and you’ll know why! Myles Tangedal, Johnny’s business manager, recorded it ‘live off the floor’ in Toronto, Ontario, at a Westin Harbour Castle corporate gig. I was there! The atmosphere of the room was warm and friendly that night, even though it was a cold, wintery night outside, Tues. February 5, 2002. I remember it like it was yesterday, and always will! A catchy, toe-tapping bosa nova like “Desafinado”, is skillfully intermingled with the sweet serenity of a moody tune like “Harlem Nocturne”. The immortal “Ebb Tide” starts off Johnny’s excellent choice of tunes on this very fine CD. Rippling waves of music from the hands of Johnny’s long-time sidekick Richie Ladner on keys, gives birth to Johnny’s soul inspiring sax solos all the way through this unforgettable melody, known the world over.
The only difference this time, is that Johnny takes this familiar melody, and transcends to music heaven with it, via his superb sax mastery. Robin Boers’ melodic drum beats, seem to sing percussively on this beautiful tune. Angelic piano riffs supplied by Richie, complete the musical picture for the listener. Johnny takes his sax for a breezy walk through “Tuff”. Reminiscent of the days when couples actually danced cheek-to-cheek, and loved it! “Bourbon Street Parade” is a real New Orleans style rouser, guaranteed to get everyone up on the dance floor kickin’ their heels up, in true New Orleans Mardi Gras Parade fashion. Richie’s expert piano solo on this one, helps keep the energy flow goin’ through the listener’s veins. Johnny’s effortless melodic sax playing on this one, really illustrates how much Johnny enjoys playing music that’s full of life. “The Shadow of Your Smile” is sweet, romantic and heartfelt all the way.
Johnny’s sax playing screams of lost loves, and hopes for reconciliation … a musical prayer for the ears! Richie really outdoes himself on keys on this one; giving it all he’s got with rippling, melodic solos and whimsical, chordal harmonies. Although an instrumental, the moment Johnny’s immortal sax starts playing the melody to “Autumn Leaves”, I immediately get the image in my mind of a young Keely Smith swaying to the rhythms of Louis Prima’s orchestra, while getting ready to sing the words. When Richie’s piano riffs come in, images of Keely standing alluringly near the piano, come to mind vividly. “Besame Mucho”’s latin rhythms say much with little effort. Lots of imagination here. I bet that if there’s a Heaven and the unforgettable Judy Garland is there, she would probably love to listen to Johnny’s beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. It’s melody has been a favorite of mine since childhood, when I first saw The Wizard of Oz with child actress Garland in the starring role as Dorothy.
Richie’s vocals on this one, seem to be calling back to his childhood innocence, when the Wicked Witch of the West WAS REAL; but so were the Munchkins, and the Great Oz himself!!! “Time After Time” features Johnny’s clear, operatic-like but wholesome vocals and rousing sax melodies; coupled with Richie’s warm piano riffs and Robin’s stimulating drumming. Robin has been drummer for Toronto Sound band The Ugly Ducklings for decades; ever since Toronto’s posh Yorkville area was a middle-class hippy haven. “When You’re Smilin’” is a real rousing party tune, with Johnny and Robin goin’ at it full throttle, on sax and drums. Richie’s rough-edged vocals on this one, evoke the feel of a smoke-filled New Orleans speakeasy from the golden age of Prohibition. Included in this rousing medley is Prima’s “Oh Marie”, given a fine treatment on vocals by Richie. His rousing vocals on “Hello Dolly”, also part of this tri-tune medley, would get a smile and commendation from the great Louis Armstrong himself, if he was here to hear.
This musical trio is nicknamed “Around the World”. Johnny’s soulful sax riffs on “September Song” seem to reach back to a long-forgotten romance, as if to say, ‘sorry you’re gone’. The heartbreak of “September … “ is soon broken by Johnny’s powerhouse sax playing and Robin’s energetic drumming on “A Foggy Day”; which is anything but, in mood and interpretation. Richie’s brief vocals are a welcome addition to this tune. The final incredible song on this magical, musical odyssey, is Carlos Santana’s “Europa”. Johnny takes Rock God, Santana’s immortal tune to ‘seventh heaven’.
Johnny’s melodic sax riffs hit highs in interpretation and feel, that could bring tears to the soul itself! All in all, the 64-plus minutes of enchanting music on this ‘live in Toronto’ CD is something ‘the angels put together’; so we can have a little bit of Johnny’s heavenly sax playing right here on earth!