Jef Lee Johnson - Sunset Sessions at Chris' Jazz Cafe, 2/11/09
Jef Lee Johnson played a great trio set tonight, as part of the Sunset Sessions at Chris' Jazz Cafe. Having seen Jef play exquisitely beautiful guitar many times as part of Lelia Broussard's band (had the pleasure to see him back Melody Gardot and Lizanne Knot as well), it was a treat to finally get to see Jef perform his own music.
Listen to "Sizzlean"
With a hot band consisting of Charlie Patierno on drums (Melody Gardot's band) and Tarus Mateen on bass (first time gig), Jef played a couple of wide ranging sets that moved from some intense improvisational jams to jazz, blues and funk. "Everything Starts Now" had some Hendrix style vocals by Jef and lots of great solos. "Sizzlean" brought the funk quite nicely. Jef is an incredibly artful player, never shows off but kills with his melodic and rhythmic sense and a beautiful technique and tone.
I've seen Patierno play many times with Melody Gardot, the last time being last August at World Cafe Live, a show which left me thinking how an already awesome jazz band has been seasoned by spending two years together travelling the world with Melody and are totally playing at the top of their game. Charlie's drums are rock solid and tight with Jef on every tune. Jef mentioned that this was Mateen's first live gig, but clearly not his first time playing the bass. He was totally on it with Jef and Charlie song for song, the three of them turning in about two hours of music that was a total treat to hear.
The Sunset Sessions is a series of live sets running daily from 5-7pm, booked by Ronald Talton at Chris' Jazz Cafe, an extremely friendly venue with a comfortable performance space which sounds as good as it looks. Chris' Jazz Cafe is a restaurant as well, their food is delicious and the full menu is available during the Sunset Sessions. The $5.00 cover is the deal of all bargains, and there's no better way to end the workday and avoid the rush hour traffic than to come chill with some great live music. The location could not be more convenient, about a half block from Broad and Sansom in the very heart of center city Philadelphia.
Jef is one of Philadelphia's finest musicians and if you don't know him yet, check out his myspace, have a listen and come see him play live. His session credits are formidable, and in addition to the several great singers I've mentioned above who have availed themselves of Jef's services over the last few years, have a listen below to a beautiful piece of session work Jef did on Venissa Santi's debut CD Bienvenida, which was just picked up for release by Sunnyside Records, due April 21st.
Listen to Venissa Santi - "Como Fue" feat. Jef Lee Johnson on guitar.
Jef's most recent release is a tribute to Lonnie Johnson recorded with Blues Anatomy. It takes a little work to track down all of Jef's records, but well worth it. Dreambox Media is the best place to start; you can also find Jef on Amazon and iTunes. Click here to check out David Mills' blog for a nice profile of Jef with interview from 2007.
Blues Anatomy with Jef Lee Johnson - Rediscovering Lonnie Johnson (Range Records, 2008)
Jef Lee Johnson's myspace.
Chris' Jazz Cafe website.