02/22/1993 at 01:00 AM EST
Known for his darting speed and crisp articulation when he played with such beboppers as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in the '40s, Johnson has matured over the years into a sage of the trombone, blessed with buttery tone and a lively, loping balance of thought and feeling. Vivian finds him in a particularly reflective and lingering mood—and for good reason. The album is dedicated to the memory of his wife of 43 years, who suffered a stroke while on tour with him in Tokyo in 1988 and died of complications in 1991.
Accompanied in a sensitive if conservative manner by Rob Schneider-man on piano, Ted Dunbar on guitar, Rufus Reid on bass and Akira Tana on drums, Johnson plays 10 sterling standards. The most tender, not surprisingly, prove the most moving, including "I Thought About You," "What's New," "How Deep Is the Ocean" and "You Don't Know What Love Is." The trombone can be a comic or a lugubrious instrument. Johnson, 69, never lets you forget that a man of dignity and depth is at the helm. (Concord)