"Johnny Fourie is one of the greatest guitar players of our epoque"
John Mc Laughlin
ONCE UPON A TIME
Recorded in 2003 as chronic emphysema took its toll on Johnnys lungs and stamina, one detects an element of peace and dignified acceptance that this music may be a swansong of sorts. The pieces are bathed in a gorgeous dappled light. There is an ego-free, unhurried respect for the composition in each change and modulation. Some notes are attacked and others caressed over waves of rich, layered harmony, which often suggest or conjure up mirages of chords that seem audible, yet are not actually played. And always, there is the immaculate note selection breathing fresh vitality into the venerable tunes.
Absorb the mood of track 12, Love Letters. The genius of Johnnys
interpretation (inspired by Clause Ogerman) is in taking what might
well be considered a sweet, possibly trite ballad by the master
pianist/ vocalist Nat King Cole, and producing a compelling,
emotional tone poem. Yet nothing is lost of the Hayman- Young melody.
Essence and embellishment are united.
Hearing Unforgettable (track 2) for the first time, one becomes acutely
aware of the unhurried tempo and the apparent presence of vibraphone on
the track. Like a vast, slow moving river, the melody reveals itself
whilst crystal-pure solo passages sketch just how deep the river is -
and how teeming with abundant life. There are no scales and no clichés
on this record my friend.
Integrity is at its core.
At this table, there is a feast for the traditionalist, the purist and
the innovator. The mantle of Tal Farlow, the camaraderie of John
McLaughlin, the melodic concepts of Bill Evans, the ghost of first
mentor George Shearing are all here. And it is a unique re-union.
As Jonathan Crossley has observed (in his MA thesis) two things became
the focus of Fouries energy in the 1990s. Namely teaching at the
(then) Pretoria Technikon Jazz Department, and the creation of the
Short Attention Span Ensemble. The group was prolific, performing at
concerts and gigs countrywide, playing mainly original compositions by
Sean Fourie and Johnny. Their debut album Fingerprints of the Gods
appeared in 1997. During these years Johnny worked relentlessly with
Allan Kwela, Kevin Gibson, Barney Rachabane, Carlo Mombelli, Bruce
Cassidy, Errol Dyers, Bob Mintzer, Barry van Zyl, Trevor Don-Jeany,
Dave OHiggins, Cyril Ngubane, Nico Carstens, Johnny Boschoff, Robert
Payne, Groove Holmes, Avzal Ismail, Wessel van Rensburg, Gilbey Karno,
Jack van Pohl, Bob Zotolla and many other musicians.
In Johnnys own words, he started slowly drifting to his musical roots. As he practised and studied; playing the changes of certain standards became fascinating and fresh again:
My playing matured to the point where I lost the obsession with speed and pure dynamics and began expressing myself in a more holistic way. Once Upon a Time represents a return to a few of the structures that I learned to play by ear from my early mentors.
Once Upon a Time is a genuine jazz classic. What you the listener hold in your hand now, is a lifetime of uncompromising jazz understanding condensed into 13 extraordinary guitar arrangements. Let them touch you. Let him move you.
30 Second Samples 1. Skylark
3. Ill remember you
4. Heres that rainy day again
5. Autumn in New York/ Manhattan
6. Our love is here to stay
8. I should care
9. All the things you are
10. The touch of your lips
11. Its you or no-one for me
12. Love letters
13. Song for V
14. Here's that rainy day (Reprise)