The disc opens with "It Figures," a triple-shot of espresso, super-charged barage of sixteenth note guitar runs. Johnson's clean-toned licks evoke the precision picking of jazz master Pat Martino, while his distorted wailing calls to mind the jazz-rock styling of guitarists John McLaughlin and Mike Stern. The heavy-handed jazz fusion concept is further explored on tunes like "Another Shuffle" and "Summer Funk," ripe with syncopated rhythm breaks, unconventional harmonic turns and soaring leads.
A more listener friendly approach is applied to funkers like "Slinky's Big Brother," "That 70's Song" and "Winter." Tunes like "Summer Nights" and Stevie Ray Vaughan's classic "Crossfire" reveal a heavy blues influence on Johnson's playing. The grooves throughout are kept crisp and solid courtesy of Payson and Arpino. The two aren't afraid to let loose and stretch out, yet are sensitive enough to know when to lay back and let Johnson do his thing.
What It Is will appeal to fans of guitar-driven fusion. Johnson is a first-rate technician who could hold his own with anyone.