Johnny O’Neal Set to Release First Studio Album
in 15 Years: In the Moment, Available October 6
via Smoke Sessions Records
Iconic Pianist/Vocalist Overcomes Struggle by
Choosing to Embrace Every Precious Moment
Album Features Special Guests
Roy Hargrove and Grant Stewart
Release Performances October 27 – 29
at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
In the Moment will be released on October 6, 2017 by Smoke Sessions Records — appropriately enough, as the label’s namesake club has been one of O’Neal’s home bases for the last seven years. The album features bassist Ben Rubens and drummer Itay Morchi, O’Neal’s regular working trio for the past year. The weightless swing and easy but deeply felt interplay the three share reveal the benefits of their regular residencies, which include late-night every Saturday at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club and Sunday nights at Small’s. Some of the biggest names in jazz stop by to hear O’Neal, and there’s no telling who might sit in during his sets on any given week. True to that policy, two very special guests dropped by the studio for this session — trumpet great Roy Hargrove and tenor-man Grant Stewart.
Working with young players such as Rubens — who also served apprenticeships under drum legends Al Harewood and Killer Ray Appleton — and Israeli-born Morchi allows O’Neal to play the role of mentor that icons like Art Blakey and Milt Jackson played in his own youth. “I was blessed to come up at the tail end of an era where I played with a lot of great masters,” he says. “Playing with Blakey was the best school. I’m passing that on now to this new generation. Young kids today deserve to play with the veterans — and I reciprocate those same sentiments because they keep me on my toes.”
The wide-ranging repertoire on In the Moment provides a cross-section of the 200-plus pieces that make up the O’Neal Trio’s ever-changing book. The material ranges from blues to straight-ahead to post-bop to pop tunes to ballads, each one fully explored and deftly illuminated by O’Neal and his electrifying bandmates. Unlike most of his past recordings, it shows off several of O’Neal’s own compositions, some of which date back more than 20 years but have never been recorded.