Jazz Review: Plas Johnson Plays Parking Lot Blues

May 22, 2018

When it comes to soul jazz, you can't have much more soul than Plas Johnson, the tenor saxophonist who recorded for Ella Fitzgerald, Henry Mancini, and Bay Area local Clifford Coulter, but never got the recognition that was received by Stanley Turrentine. 


Plas Johnson was born in the early 1930s and he became an active New Orleans jazz musician in the late 1940s. His career continued to grow during the 1950s and his career peaked in the early 1960s when he recorded three albums with Ella Fitzgerald and the theme for "Pink Panther", a Henry Mancini composition.


Yet, Plas Johnson did few albums as leader: in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he did five albums as leader, and then stopped doing lead albums until the mid-1970s. Johnson returned to leading music albums in 1975 and 1976 when he recorded two albums, The Blues and Positively


The Blues included a soul jazz music group with Plas Johnson (saxophone), Herb Ellis (guitar), Mike Melvoin (electric piano), Ray Brown (bass), Jake Hanna (drums), and Bobbeye Hall (percussion). It was on his album The Blues that he recorded a blues composition by bassist Ray Brown called "Parking Lot Blues". Johnson's lively blues tone transforms this basic blues tune.


 The recording of "Parking Lot Blues" by Plas Johnson.



On Johnson's solo, he plays spaced-out phrases, leaving room for the guitarist, Herb Ellis, to accompany him and for Johnson to take advantage of the swinging group. The beat can be felt strongly in Plas Johnson's improvised solo and the rhythm section is truly foot-tapping.


Guitarist Herb Ellis takes the next solo. He also leaves plenty of gaps and is followed by a solo by the electric pianist, Mike Melvoin. Neither Herb Ellis, Mike Melvoin, nor Plas Johnson are busy soloists; they let the rhythm guide their improvisation.


After the three solos are done, the group returns to the melody, and after the melody, the recording fades out with another Plas Johnson solo.





Gene Ammons Plays "Georgia" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtFTR29Wwmg

Dodo Marmarosa Plays "The Moody Blues" - 




Art Blakey Plays "Moanin" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv9NSR-2DwM





The original YouTube video (which has a description section that is in turn copied from a Scott Yanow review of "The Blues" album on AllMusic) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9FVQVVbjUY

This article is partially based upon the Wikipedia Plas Johnson biography - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plas_Johnson

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