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  • Jonathan Widran


For veteran Jamaican born guitarist Norman Johnson, everything changed in high school when he caught wind of George Benson’s seminal album The Other Side of Abbey Road. He began playing seriously, studied at the Hartford Conservatory of Music and the Hartt School of music and began carving out a career as a sideman with greats like Bill Mays, Harvie Swartz and Steve Gadd.

While certain tracks on his latest EP The Art of Life draw powerfully from the Benson influence – most notably, the crisp, horn fired mid-tempo funk jam “Old Skool” – Johnson complements that trademark electric style by leaning equally on his on his coming of age nylon string passions for Earl Klugh and Segovia on engaging, celebratory tunes like “Summer Dance.” Johnson employs both approaches brilliantly on the brisk and balmy tropical romp “It’s You,” which features dreamy, soulful vocals by June Bisantz.

In addition to giving listeners the opportunity to hear both sides of his musical personality, Johnson also showcases his skills on piano and bass while giving saxophonists Chris Herbert and Bill Holloman ample moments to shine.

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