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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

CD Review – “Hybrid Harmony”- RJ & The Assignment

(Review by John Charles)

RJ (Reginald Johnson) is a Las Vegas-based pianist and keyboards player who has put together his band “The Assignment” and regularly plays across a number of Las Vegas venues.

A native of Chicago RJ learnt piano in church and later was classically trained at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas from where RJ secured a Master’s degree in Jazz Piano Performance.  RJ has played with many soul and blues artists including Jennifer Hudson, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy and has recently toured with Boys II Men.

Hybrid Harmony is RJ’s fourth album as leader and is an accessible hybrid mix of jazz and r &b with a soulful slant and a dash of gospel for good measure.  RJ, who looks like a youthful Nile Rogers, wrote and composed seven of the ten tracks on the album which is a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks and I was particularly drawn to the vocal efforts.

Covering the instrumentals first, Autumn Steps is a reinvention of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps with great sax work from composer Julian Tanaka.  The title track Hybrid Harmony features RJ’s strong keyboards and My Mean Ol’ Aunt certainly has a mean funky groove.

Vocal efforts include an interesting cover of Tears for Fears, Everybody Wants to Rule the World with a bit of scat singing leading to sax and guitar solos. Self-compositions include a soulful Klaiton Johnson vocalising on I’m Tryin’ and a gentle jazzy Walk in Your Light (vocalist uncredited).

For me though the highlight of the album is a fantastic reworking of Andre 3000’s Prototype as featured on Outkast’s 2003 masterpiece Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.  RJ’s rolling piano provides a great backdrop to Klaiton Johnson and Aja Hawkins’ vocals echoing one another throughout the song.
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A solid effort by a relatively new artist  Link + CD  Baby etc. 
John C.

I’m Tryin’; My Mean Ol’ Aunt; Walk in Your Light; Hybrid Harmony; Prototype; Autumn Steps; Everybody Wants to Rule the World; Between Now and Never; Can’t Nobody; After Service.

Kiata Brown, Aja Hawkins, Klaiton Johnson, Alisha Webster (vocals); Jason Bolden, Donald Phillips (electric bass); Eric Runquist (upright bass); Johnny Johnson (guitar); JulianTanaka (sax); Terry Wesley (drums); RJ (piano, keyboards): Tom Schuman (auxilliary Instruments).

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