Shades of Jade

Marc Johnson

CD18,90 out of print
Featured Artists Recorded

January-February 2004, Avatar Studios, New York

Original Release Date


  • 1Ton Sur Ton
    (Eliane Elias, Marc Johnson)
  • 2Apareceu
    (Eliane Elias)
  • 3Shades of Jade
    (Eliane Elias, Marc Johnson)
  • 4In 30 Hours
    (Eliane Elias)
  • 5Blue Nefertiti
    (Marc Johnson)
  • 6Snow
    (Eliane Elias)
  • 7Since You Asked
    (Marc Johnson)
  • 8Raise
    (Marc Johnson)
  • 9All Yours
    (Eliane Elias)
  • 10Don't Ask of Me (Intz Mi Khntrir, Armenian song by Anton Mailyan)
    (Anton Mailyan)
Bassist Marc Johnson is perhaps best remembered as the last bassist for pianist Bill Evans from 1978 to his death in 1980. Here on Shades of Jade, Johnson’s third album for ECM, the bassist pays tribute to another great Evans band and bassist Scott LaFaro… The music here has the same kind of quiet intensity as its touchstone even if the group is larger – guitarist John Scofield, saxophonist Joe Lovano, pianist Eliane Elias and drummer Joey Baron round out the line-up. Johnson and Elias handle the composition responsibilities, both together and separately, and Elias’s playing really shines as she provides prodding accompaniment. … A wonderful expansion of Evans’s lyrical trio concept, Shades of Jade accomplishes everything Johnson could have hoped for.
Tad Hendrickson, Jazz Week
This lyrical exercise in small-band jazz features the kind of elegant, understated band you’d want to play if you were facing a firing squad who all happened to be jazz fans. Joe Lovano, vaporous as smoke and melodically wayward, is the saxophonist; John Scofield is on guitar; one-time Bill Evans bassist Marc Johnson and audacious drummer Joey Baron make up the rhythm section; and a fluidly imaginative Eliane Elias is on piano. Johnson and Elias wrote all the pieces, with Ton Sur Ton a standout for its lovely melody line and sly guitar harmonies. … Brazilian Eliane Elias, a photogenic samba singer whom the industry has tried to turn into a new Astrud Gilberto, proves what a class act she really is as a creative, somewhat Jarrett-like pianist.
John Fordham, The Guardian
ECM might be seen as the repository of all things northern, European and cool, but that conveniently omits the point that they happen to still produce some of the best American jazz records too. Johnson’s excellent record is fine evidence of same. This is impeccable New York jazz of the present day, a crack team of stalwarts distilling rather than going through their everyday professionalism.
John Truitt, Jazz Review
Sometimes you don’t need heroics, just a group who sound as if they have always played together. … Johnson has an A-list cast – Eliane Elias on piano, John Scofield, guitar, the saxophonist Joe Lovano, and the drummer Joey Baron. They swing through Blue Nefertiti, bust mostly moods are low-key and ruminative. Elias, the co-writer with Johnson of many of these ballads and blues, adds lyrical grace. … While this set may look on paper like a star blowing session, it sounds like intricate, intimate chamber jazz.
John Bungey, The Times
Zentrum ist das Trio mit Johnson, Eliane Elias am Piano und dem fliegenden, Räume aufreißenden Schlagzeug von Joey Baron. Elias ist Brasilianerin, eine warme, bewohnbaren Harmonien zugeneigte, in ihren solistischen Linien singende Musikerin... Sie ist neben Johnson auch wichtigste Komponistin der CD, meist von dunkel schimmernden Balladen. Dazu kommen in fünf Stücken die Schwergewichte John Scofield und Joe Lovano, sorgfältig auf die Zwischenräume bedacht der eine, von unvergleichlich brüchiger melodischer Delikatesse der andere. ... Für zwei Stücke... verlässt man den Salon des Feinsinns und der kostbaren Gefühle und erinnert sich an Handfesteres, in „Blue Nefertiti“, einem Blues um drei Ecken, und in „Raise“, einem saftigen Orgel-Walzer. Die rechte Mischung. Damit das Ganze nicht zu schön wird, um wahr zu sein.
Peter Rüedi, Weltwoche
The album’s title has biographical significance. Marc Johnson first came to the attention of players and listeners around the world as the bassist with Bill Evans’ last great piano trio in the period 1978-80. The title track of Johnson’s new album “Shades of Jade” was inspired by the bassist in the first of Evans’ great trios, Scott La Faro, whose “Jade Visions”, on 1961’s “Sunday At The Village Vanguard” provided an object lesson in how intensity could be focused in inward-looking music, of enduring beauty.

Johnson’s ECM debut recordings, in 1985, were with his own Bass Desires quartet, foregrounding the guitars of Bill Frisell and John Scofield – a group frequently as outgoing as the Evans trio was introverted – and as a member of John Abercrombie’s trio. “Shades of Jade” is only Johnson’s third leader date for the label, but he has been an important contributor to many ECM recordings. His list of session credits for the label includes albums with Ralph Towner (“Lost and Found”), pianist John Taylor (“Rosslyn”), saxophonist Charles Lloyd (“Lift Every Voice”) and bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi (“Cité de la Musique”). He continues to be associated with John Abercrombie and appears on his most recent discs, “Cat’n’Mouse” and “Class Trip”. In all of these contexts his touch and tone and advanced harmonic understanding are well-deployed.

“Shades of Jade”, a mature jazz album, with a classic, timeless feel, makes sense of the range of Johnson’s experience, and stresses his compositional skills. It also features one of the most melodically-inventive pianists in modern jazz in Eliane Elias, the CD’s other primary composer. Restlessly-inventive drummer Joey Baron rounds out the core trio; tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano adds his own inimitable shading and solos of profundity, and guitarist John Scofield, always an exciting player, renews acquaintances 20 years after recording on Johnson’s “Bass Desires”.

Produced by Elias and Manfred Eicher at New York’s Avatar Studios, “Shades of Jade” combines Johnson’s love for both piano and guitar, using group interplay with Scofield and Lovano to expand the piano trio format. On the opening Johnson-Elias composition “Ton Sur Ton,” a bass intro and Baron’s brushwork lead to harmonized lines between Scofield and Lovano. Elias enters two minutes later, combining eloquence and power through one of her linear solos. The La Faro-influenced title track, the disc’s other co-composed piece, bears the stamp of the Evans trio through Johnson's 6/8-timed pulse, Baron's shimmering cymbals, and Elias’ melodic nuances.

Born in Brazil, Elias arrived in New York City in 1981 and astonished local players with her pianistic fluency. Her recent, and highly successful, solo recordings have strengthened her reputation as a vocalist. Shades of Jade, however, spotlights the musician who joined the original acoustic line-up of Steps Ahead shortly after her arrival. Elias contributes four introspective compositions that showcase her idiosyncratic jazz vocabulary, drawing on both North American and Brazilian music. (Elias has also recorded ‘classical’ repertoire from Bach to Chopin and Ravel for EMI Classics). The Elias compositions “Snow” and “All Yours” – which features a stately solo by Johnson – are piano trio settings for her haunting melodies, harmonic sense, and exquisite touch. The pianist sounds more self-assured than ever before. “She’s so versatile, and so deep a talent,” Johnson says. “She can do just about anything, and do it really well. We’ve been playing together for so long that there are little subtle things between us that you can’t even measure; a chemistry from playing for so many years. And writing together means the record really has Eliane’s stamp on it.”

Johnson composed “Blue Nefertiti” with Scofield in mind, and the guitarist contributes an appropriately bluesy solo to the swinging, mid-tempo piece. The bassist’s slow “Since You Asked” is a powerful improvisation with Baron. “Raise”, a nod to another mighty bassist, Ray Brown, raises the tempo while adding organist Alain Mallet for texture. On the entrancing closer, “Don't Ask of Me”, an Armenian folk song otherwise known as “Intz Mi Khntrir”, Johnson bows the bass in its upper register while Mallet makes another cameo to add droning keyboard effects.

”That's a sort of pedal ostinato that I play over”, Johnson says of Mallet’s foundation, “and a sort of closing benediction. Alain’s a really proficient keyboardist on the New York and Boston scenes, and I really wanted to hear organ on those pieces. He sounded great.”

“Shades of Jade” gives an index of Johnson’s versatility, from ballads and blues to piano trio jazz and chamber music. His chemistry with Elias and Baron is undeniable, and partly the result of much touring together as a trio. Lovano – who met Johnson in 1977 when the bassist was on the road with Woody Herman’s Young Thundering Herd – and Scofield are respected bandleaders and long-time cohorts who unselfishly become sidemen for the good of the ensemble. “Shades of Jade” may look like a collective of all-stars on paper, but the music is that of a united, intuitive band.