Trumpeter and composer Russ Johnson explores new musical territory on Headlands, his fourth release as a leader.

In 2015, Russ Johnson was commissioned to premiere a new band and set of compositions for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago. The result is Headlands, a 12-movement suite he composed for a collection of Chicago’s finest musicians. Rob Clearfield is featured here once again on keyboards, as well as Matt Ulery, along with the renowned drummer Jon Deitemyer.

Headlands is a through composed work that is intended to be listened to in its entirety. The suite consists of six compositions connected by solo improvised passages by each member of the ensemble. A short theme serves as bookends to the proceedings. The music is designed to be structurally open/elastic to allow for maximum flexibility in live performance while still maintaining a strict overall from to give the work coherence. The Headlands suite is music that traverses the areas between modern jazz and the avant-garde and covers a wide range of compositional and improvisational styles.

“This is music that takes risks; the goal is not finding “perfection” within a performance, but to truly create the Suite ANEW with every new opportunity,” says Johnson. Captured live at the Hungry Brain in Chicago, this recording represents but one version of this concept.

Johnson moved to the Midwest in 2011 after spending more than two decades as an important member of the New York City musical community, where he established himself as a fearless improviser who is comfortable in many musical settings (jazz/improvised/classical). Since moving to the Chicago area, Johnson has continued to forge his path as a unique composer and improviser, and has created several projects and bands: Headlands is the most recent example.

 

RICHARD B. KAMINS
STEP TEMPEST
"Headlands is an album one can play play several times in a row and discover new elements each time. Give it a try." Read the full review here.

TROY DOSTERT
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Johnson is a discerning composer and trumpeter, and he has a special talent for producing thoughtful compositions that possess enough fluidity and creativity to remain fresh even after repeated encounters." Read the full 4-star review here.

DAVE SUMNER
BIRD IS THE WORM
"Even though his works often provide musicians plenty of room to roam free, there’s typically a weightiness to it that speaks more to the earth than the air.  The resulting contrast of swiftly delivered music that possesses a lumbering mode of propulsion is more than a little bit compelling." Read the full review here.

GEORGE W. HARRIS
JAZZ WEEKLY
"...a rich tapestry of sounds." Read the full review here.

KEVIN LYNCH
SHEPHERD EXPRESS
"Recalling funky, electric-period Miles Davis, the recording offers segues rather than track pauses. The voyage befits Johnson’s natural realm along jazz’s outer reaches." Review here

RON SCHEPPER
TEXTURA
"Johnson's playing extends from tender to boisterous, contrasts that are reflected in the set-list, making for a consistently engaging presentation." Read the full review here.

 

FILIPE FREITAS
JAZZTRAIL
"Russ Johnson is a cutting-edge trumpeter whose thoughtful approach to music makes him a distinguished composer and instrumentalist." Read the full review here.

BILL MEYER
CHICAGO READER
" This fall's The Headlands Suite (Woolgathering), on the other hand, showcases Johnson’s gifts as a composer. Originally commissioned by the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, it's a sturdily constructed and deliberately paced sequence of themes that elicit forceful rhythms and lucid solos." Preview here