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ALBUM REVIEWS / JAZZ

* 1/2, JONNY KING, "Notes From the Underground", Enja

August 16, 1996|DON HECKMAN

King, like Joshua Redman, is an Ivy League graduate (Princeton, in King's case, Harvard in Redman's) who temporarily elected to set aside law school to start a jazz career. Which makes the presence of Redman--whose playing is more focused here than on his own albums--especially appropriate on this debut outing.

King is a sturdy pianist whose work reveals traces of McCoy Tyner as well as Bill Evans, but who also has a rapidly developing voice of his own as a player and composer. His performances within an ensemble that includes the novel mixture of Redman's saxophones with the vibes of Steve Nelson, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Billy Drummond are solid and dependable. But King's more uncommon talent, a capacity to generate a flowing sense of swing within a frame of lyrical melody, becomes most apparent in a trio track, "Soliloquy," and a joyously sardonic rendering of the standard "Mean to Me."

Unlike Redman, King eventually completed law school and currently doubles as an attorney and a musician. Given the quality of his playing, one can only hope that the demands of the legal profession will not restrict the creative activities of this promising, if too little-known jazz artist.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended) and four stars (excellent).

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