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Album Review: Conversations
Matt Johnson
Cover image of the album Conversations by Matt Johnson
Matt Johnson
1992 / Dolce & Nuit Productions
54 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Conversations is the third album by Matt Johnson. Released in 1992, the album consists of twelve original compositions for piano and ensemble (including two piano solos). With a strong background in classical music and jazz as well as sacred music, Johnson brings a wealth of experience and diversity to his music. He calls his music “Neo-Romantic, employing a unique blend of contemporary jazz, new age, popular and classical elements” and I would agree. Johnson has performed extensively in venues from Boston to Brazil and there is a very strong Latin influence in some of his music. The ensemble is made up of thirteen musicians (not counting Johnson) playing a wide range of instruments. The music is very eclectic, from bright and upbeat to pensive and more subdued, giving a great sampling of Johnson’s compositional range - even 27 years ago!

Conversations begins with “My Favorite Time of the Year,” a joyful and effervescent ensemble piece for most, if not all, of the musicians. Strings, flute, drums, bass and percussion lead the way with the piano somewhat in the background until near the end of the piece - a great opener! The playful “Freckle On My Hand” has a strong Latin jazz rhythm that will have your toes tapping in no time. Sax and piano send this lively piece soaring with a big grin! “Sassy” is a favorite with its driving, danceable beat propelling sax and flugelhorn as well as piano, bass, guitar and percussion - pure fun! “Never On Time” goes in a somewhat different direction with a piece for flute, piano and percussion that is still jazz but a bit smoother than the first three tracks. “Me Beija (Kiss Me)” is a wonderful Latin-infused slow dance for guitar, flute, piano and lots of percussion - another favorite! The gorgeous, soulful “You Can’t Go Back” is a piano solo written for Johnson’s parents. The title track is darker and a bit more mysterious with a full, rich sound that would work in a movie soundtrack. At almost 8 1/2 minutes, various moods are expressed - some with just piano, some with the full ensemble and some with a combination. I love the drama of this piece! “She Fell Asleep in My Arms” is a sweet and very tender duet for piano and English horn (with bass). Strings are added here and there. I really like this one, too! The word “carioca” refers to a native or resident of Rio de Janeiro, and the piece called “Carioca Lullaby” is slow and soothing with a hypnotic sax played by Bob Zung. The piano plays a repeated pattern as bass guitar supplies a quiet rhythm. And yet another favorite! The album comes to a gentle, reflective close with the second piano solo, “Sometimes, Words Are Not Enough.” Very free and expressive, it seems to be a “conversation” between Johnson and himself perhaps late at night by the light of a candle or two. It’s a beautiful ending to an exceptional album.

Matt Johnson offers his recordings and sheet music for no charge on his website, www.MattJohnsonMusic.com. His recordings can also be found on Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.
April 20, 2019
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