William Johnson’s release Flor de Vida/Flower of Life contains a good dose of latin influenced fused smooth jazz. Except for the track “Discovery”, all compositions are originals by percussionist William Johnson. Johnson’s outstanding compositions are sophisticated and lyrical but always with a rich and hard rhythmic foundation. In the track “Conga Duet”, Johnson and Victor Villafañe demonstrate their technical abilities playing the congas with spontaneity and ease. Some of the compositions on the album contain a religious message, like “Rise”, an instrumental interpretation of the miracle of resurrecting a little girl performed by Jesus.
“To the beach” is a family conversation that serves as an intro to the track “Flor” (Flower). Willie Bradley adds some thoughtful trumpet solos on this one, over the dense textures and rhythms of Luis Conte on timbales and William Johnson on congas. Luis Conte also adds the vocals alongside Lasherrie Droughton on the danceable and intense latin rhythms of “Como las flores” (Like the flowers). Kyle Johnson electric guitar and the rock/latin/jazz fusion sound on “Mi Pasión” are reminiscent of Santana. With the distinct clave of afro Cuban music, “Descarga” is an intense track that contains the most impressive solos by William Johnson on congas and Luis Conte on timbales. “Dad’s Song”, a composition that evokes the music of the native Americans, leads to “Heaven’s Rainforest”, a world music-like peaceful piece.
Tracks: Flor De Mi Vida, Discover (Descubrimiento), Conga Duet (interlude), Rise (Talitha Cumi), To The Beach (interlude), Flor, Como las Flores, Mi Pasión, Descarga, Dad’s Song (interlude), Heaven’s Rainforest.
Personnel: William Johnson: Congas, djembe, udio drum, shaker, bongo, cajon, minor percussion; Darrien Peoples: Shakers; Lou Santiago Jr.: Drums; Alberto Salas: Keyboard, piano; Melissa Mayle, Lasherrie Droughon: Vocals; Timmie Raynor III: Electric bass; Michael Parlett: Flutes, drums, shaker, clave; Hans Zermuehlen: Keyboards, Rhodes; Victor Villafañe: Congas, timbales, bells; Luis Conte: Timbales, bells, batá, surdo, vocals; Mark Faine: Upright bass; Willie Bradley: Trumpet; Kyle Johnson: Electric guitar, ebo guitar; Raymond Robinson: Flute, cello, arp.
William Johnson – Website: http://williamjohnsonmusic.com
Label: Cedros Records
Release date: September 2011
Reviewed by: Wilbert Sostre