By John Stevenson
There’s no shortage of infectious grooves, swing and imagination on Overdue, KDJ Trio’s debut recording.
Comprising pianist Kameron Johnson (17), drummer Donavon Johnson (14) and Jonathon S. Muir-Cotton (17) the Michigan jazz triumvirate (the Johnsons from Southfield and Muir-Cotton from Ann Arbor respectively) sparkles with musical authority.
The boys, who have been playing professionally around Michigan and further afield since 2010, tackle a wide range of genres to demonstrate a sure-footed grasp of the jazz tradition.
Kameron’s virtuosic piano intro on Wayne Shorter’s Footprints makes the tune an inspired opening selection.
Tasteful harmonic and melodic ideas flow effortlessly as the pianist feeds off the Swiss watch timekeeping of his younger sibling.
Jonathon walks the double bass like a young Ron Carter, always totally in sync with his bandmates.
Listeners will admire the KDJ Trio’s delicate balance of technical panache and sheer soulfulness. It is not an easy thing to get right, but these three young gentlemen operate like seasoned professionals with a simpatico and maturity, which, quite astonishingly, belies their ages.
Detroit, Kameron’s homage to the great musical and industrial City, is buoyed by an irresistible hip-hop rhythm, but also displays a searching and somewhat experimental quality.
The well-worn standard, Close Your Eyes, is cleverly updated, alternating between funk and breakneck swing. Steamin’, a catchy shuffle, finds Kameron on electric piano with Jonathon throwing down some James Jamerson-inspired bass guitar playing.
The Miles Davis classic, Blue in Green, is ingeniously re-arranged and performed in a slightly faster tempo. Daytimer convincingly demonstrates the KDJ Trio’s firm be-bop piano roots and influences – and shows that the guys have studied their Barry Harris, Hank Jones, Thelonius Monk and Bud Powell.
The trio interprets Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage in spirited fashion. Like Robert Glasper’s trios, the KDJ Trio rejuvenates the straightahead jazz canon with undeniable finesse. The same can be said for C Me Now, which rounds out this excellent recording.
If you need to know where the younger generation is taking jazz, KDJ Trio’s Overdue is your best compass.