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Lorenzo Johnson — Things Are Looking Up

June 10, 2011

After helping others glow with his brilliant contributions (examples include Ledisi, Maysa, Eric Darius, and Chuck Brown), producer/songwriter/mult-instrumentalist Lorenzo Johnson decided it was his turn.  He steps out here with his solo debut, Things Are Looking Up, and based on the work here, the album is aptly titled for the Washington, DC, area-based artist.

With a solid mix of funk, a little of that Chuck Brown go-go flavor, R&B, and, of course, a big dose of good contemporary jazz, Johnson’s mixing bowl was full of diversity and energy when he placed this project in the “ready” line.

If there’s a single word to describe the mood here, it’s intensity. The energy’s obvious, but there’s a sense of urgency in many of the tracks, of the need to make sure that the vibe is understood as well as felt.  Maybe that comes from working with the very fired up Eric Darius; maybe it’s just the Lorenzo Johnson makeup. Whichever is the case, the dance groove doesn’t let up, the fire doesn’t die out, and, when the groove gets seductive, the passion just keeps building.
 
A few of these tracks pack a bit more wallop than others, as is usually the case with albums with a dozen or more tracks (this one has 14). I have my faves, of course (e.g., the funky “Feeling’ Great,” with Johnson doing some righteous stuff on bass and playing other instruments here, as well; the mellow and tight title track, mixed by Nelson Braxton, and featuring Johnson on everything but guitar, drums, and sax (the latter provided courtesy of Brian Lenair); “Thread the Needle,” another mover with Johnson on everything but the kitchen sink; and the soulfully blue finale featuring another personality to surely keep in focus, saxman Marcus Anderson .  Oh, there are others, but you’ll have  to witness the album to decide which grab you.

A polished first effort by Johnson, certainly worthy of recognition by his peers and those fans who’ve followed his peers.  – Ronald Jackson