Allemeine Zeitung Mainz October 2005

Using Jazz to Emerge from the Shadow of the Stars.


Interview with Geoff Dunn and Ronnie Johnson - By Michael Jacobs


MAINZ: Ronnie Johnson laughs a lot. For a guitarist who has been bravely strumming along to an awkward genius such as Van Morrison, this is actually quite remarkable. Some years ago, during a tour through the USA, things got even worse when they were joined by killjoy Bob Dylan. "I don’t know which one of the two is more complicated", says Johnson and laughs. He describes Dylan as positively taciturn.

Johnson is sitting in the office of the Mainz agency Bronner Music and looks at photographs of a recent performance of Leo Sayer in the foyer of the SWR broadcasting house. He sits on a stool, his guitar leisurely resting on his lap, while Sayer is posing in the foreground and presents some numbers from his new album.

But this will be different in the future. Not that Johnson and his band colleague Geoff Dunn who, as a drummer, can also look back on a long career in the percussion-slipstream of rock giants such as Jimmy Page, Eric Burdon or Manfred Mann, are out to steal the show from their popular employers. But there comes a point when people want to get away from the second row, and with a project of their own, demonstrate their true musical abilities. Therefore, Johnson and Dunn- together with keyboarder Roy Shipston and the bass player Phil Mulford- have formed the jazz quartet ‘First Light’ whose second album ‘Field Day’ has just been completed.

It will take a while until ‘First Light’ can bathe in an audience of some 200,000 people, like at a Morrison/Johnson concert at the banks of the Missisippi in Memphis. But if their Mainz management springboard gets into gear, concerts at the Frankfurter Hof or at the forthcoming Tent Festival might well be on their tour agenda, thinks music journalist Anke Kathrin Bonner.

With their mixture of jazz, classic, and rock, the instrumental numbers on ‘Field Day’ are not just for purists, but for anybody who likes music that goes beyond mainstream compositions, says Dunn.

The individual pieces are multi-layered, suitable for contemplative listening, but also for a dynamic hands-on approach, following the concept of a perfect day cast in sound.

And while Johnson raves on about the “German Feeling”, the special light here at the Rhine and openness towards a huge diversity of musical styles, a vision creeps up in which Van Morrison joins into the backing chorus of ‘First Light’ without any protest. An idea which makes Ronnie Johnson laugh.


Agency Europe - www.bronner-music.com

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