Track of the Day: Josh Johnson “Western Ave” (2020)

Josh Johnson

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Josh Johnson continues to tease his forthcoming debut album Freedom Exercise. The LA via Chicago musician, who has toured and recorded with Makaya McCraven, Leon Bridges and more, dropped the album’s first single “Western Ave” earlier this month. 

Johnson moved to Los Angeles eight years ago. It was only supposed to be a temporary move. Spend a couple of years, learn from some jazz greats – namely Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter – and head back home to the Chicago area. And yet, eight years later he’s still there, and it’s there he’s recorded his debut album, Freedom Exercise, with three of his closest friends. His time in LA has brought with it frequent collaborators (guitarist Jeff Parker) and the opening of doors in the jazz world and beyond. 

“Western Ave”, quite aptly, is named for a city-spanning thoroughfare found in both Los Angeles and Chicago; the two cities that have had a substantial impact on Johnson’s sound. It’s a real delight of a track, one which I’ve returned to often over the last couple of weeks. There’s a lot to admire at work here, and each seperate listen brings a different aspect to the fore. Whether it be the afrobeat inspired drumming from Aaron Steele, Gregory Uhlmann’s guitar work, or Johnson’s  exquisite saxophone. It all builds to something that’s evocative, enticing and leaves you wanting more. Thankfully, there’s only a few more weeks to wait for the album to drop. 

“Western Ave” is out now. Freedom Exercise is out October 9th via Northern Spy Records. You can preorder the album HERE.

Keep up to date with Josh Johnson via Instagram, Twitter, and his Official Website.

Header Photo by Robbie Jeffers.

Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

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