Saxophonist, composer and vocalist Ski Johnson is based out of Washington, DC and has performed on Good Morning America, FOX 5 Morning News, The Channel 9 Morning Show, The Donnie Simpson Show, BET and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. New Beginnings, Johnson’s eighth recording as a leader, is a bit one-dimensional.
On the tune "Interlude," Johnson himself talks about changing the old ways and finding a new direction, a new direction he sets out on this recording. With very synthesized backgrounds that are sometimes too thinly orchestrated, this recording places Johnson and his saxophone out-front on hip-hop and smooth jazz-ish tunes that are heavy on hooks.
At times the results are really wonderful. "Pocket Jazz," for example, has a nice R&B bounce to it. Johnson’s alto saxophone tone radiates warmth and finds its own direction among the loops. The mid-tempo melody is strong and Johnson’s obbligato lines fit above the melody in perfect harmony and intent. "That Old School" is also in the mid-tempo arena with Johnson spinning some nice soulful lines. On other tracks, however, the results are not as strong. "Ski Time" and "Miles And Me" don’t catch fire. When Johnson plays in the mid to upper register, he truly has a fine voice that commands attention, but runs into trouble in the lower range where his tone sags.
The best tracks are the vocals. Jasmine Handon’s singing on "Step It Up" is truly a delight. Her trippy and light vocalizations add a nice change and bring variety to the disc. Her intonation is impeccable and her ability to find the rhythmic groove helps make this entire track very locked-in-the-pocket. The same can be said for "I’ll Be Waiting For You." Overall, a bit of an uneven recording.