Johnny Summers - Piano Sessions Vol. 1 Album Review

Johnny Summers' third album, Piano Sessions Volume 1, showcases his versatility as a musician and presents a diverse mix of musical genres. From swing to ballad and from honky-tonk to blues, there is something for every music aficionado to enjoy. Johnny's third album, Piano Sessions Volume 1, will be released on March 16, 2013.

The album also features Chris Andrew on the piano and several special guests, including a capella group The Polyjesters, Jason Valleau (bass/vocals), Sheldon Valleau (ukulele/vocals), Shane Statz (tenor sax), Johanna Silanpaa (vocals), Kodi Hutchinson (bass) and Al Muirhead (trumpet).

Johnny Summers is a Calgary-based vocalist and trumpeter. He is also the founder and music director of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra. Johnny  runs Summertime Music.

Piano Sessions Volume 1 Highlights

The opening track, "I Wonder, I Wonder" is an easygoing swing number. A short introduction is played by Chris Andrew, Jason Valleau on bass and Sheldon Valleau on ukelele before the rest of the ensemble joins in. The Polyjesters' "oohs" add a touch of doo-wop to the mix. Chris' weaving lines and shakes on the piano dance playfully around Summers' smoky vocals. Summers' trumpet solo ebbs and flows as gently as the Pacific Ocean while watching a peaceful sunset at the beach.

Chris Andrews opens "Folsom Prison Blues" with a slightly dissonant chord and shakes before steadily gathering steam as the train (er song) pulls out. Johnny Summers and Shane Statz add some train whistles sounds on the trumpet and tenor sax respectively.  They take a slower pace than Johnny Cash does. The slightly slower tempo enables the ensemble to deliver a more soulful interpretation and bend the notes more. The transition from the sax to the trumpet solo is seamlessly done.

"Simple Song" is simply stunning. From the tender opening laid down by Chris Andrews, this ballad unfolds one layer at a time. The heartfelt lyrics start gently and gradually grow in passion. For claiming to not be as fancy as Shakespeare or Van Gogh, it's downright eloquent. Gentlemen, this is the perfect song to play for the special woman in your life on Valentine' Day:

Vocalist Johanna Sillanpaa joins Johnny in singing a playful arrangement "Exactly Like You". Their vocals blend together beautifully in this delightful jazz standard. Kodi Hutchinson and Chris Andrew provide catchy, rhythmic comping throughout.

The final track "Going Home", is based on the second movement theme from Antonin Dvořák's New World Symphony. Johnny Summers' phrasing on the trumpet is smooth and soulful. Chris' solo nails the melancholy tone of this beautiful theme.

Piano Sessions Volume 1 Track Listing

  1. I Wonder, I Wonder - Cecil Gant (3:41)
  2. She Thinks I Still Care - George Jones (5:51)
  3. Maybe This Time - John Kander, Fred Ebb (5:36)
  4. Dream a Little Dream of Me - Fabian Andre, Wilbur Schwandt, Gus Kahn (3:22)
  5.  Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash (3:53)
  6. My Baby Just Cares for Me - Walker Donaldson, Gus Kahn (3:16)
  7. Simple Song - Johnny Summers (4:21)
  8. Exactly Like You - Jimmy McHugh, Dorothy Fields (2:41)
  9. You Don't Know Me - Cindy Walker, Eddie Arnold (5:44)
  10. I'm an Errand Boy for Rhythm - Nat King Cole (4:09)
  11. Going Home - William Arms Fisher, Antonin Dvořák (4:30)

Genres: jazz, blues, gospel, funk, swing, ballad, honky-tonk Label: Summertime Music Cover Design by FLIPP.ca Photography by Michael Stellmach

Piano Sessions Volume 1 Review

The balance and sound quality on Piano Sessions Volume 1 album is just beautiful. Not one voice is out of balance. Superb. The variety of musical styles represented gives new listeners a taste of each style, without offering too much of any one genre. The musicians all work well together, that is, they sound good together and complement one another. That's the byproduct of everyone involved having worked together before.

If anything, this album makes me excited to hear more of Johnny Summers' original works. If they are like "Simple Song", I can't wait for the next release.

Johnny Summers Piano Sessions CD Release

The CD release for Piano Sessions Volume 1 is on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. at the University of Calgary in the Eckhardt-Gramatte Hall, Rozsa Centre. Tickets go on sale February 15 at the U of C Campus Ticket Centre.

To purchase an advance copy of Piano Sessions Volume 1, come out to a Calgary Jazz Orchestra performance on Sunday, February 10, 2013 or Saturday, February 23, 2013. Alternatively, you may contact Johnny Summers at Summertime Music.

March 11, 2013 update:

Johnny Summers' upcoming release, Piano Sessions Volume 1 recently won two Global Music Awards for Best Male Vocalist and Best Listener Impact. The album is currently available on CD Baby and will be available on iTunes on March 16, 2013.

Johnny Summers: Piano Sessions, Vol. One