CD Reviews

John Lamkin II’s New Album Will Keep You Movin’ ‘n Groovin’ the Lamkin Way

With his latest release, Movin,’ the venerable John Lamkin II, with The Favorites Jazz Quintet, starts out swinging and never stops! The tempos, styles, and moods of the ten songs on this record range from fast to slow, ebullient to mournful, but the central theme, as Dr. Lamkin writes in the liner notes, is that “Everything in life is ‘Movin,’ nothing stays still…We are always movin’.”

That Lamkin knows in his bones the vast landscape and history of Jazz goes without saying. The songs on this album are truly an homage to those whose on whose shoulders he stands. Echoes of Cannonball and Nat Adderly, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and the many other jazz legends of the 1950s-1970s, who paved the way for the fusion of Jazz with rock music and other genres, are loud and clear in Lamkin’s work.

Many of the songs made me swing and sway with an imaginary partner, or tap my toes, as in the first track, “The Sportsman,” a lively, Old-School dance number, with a tinge of Blues in the solo turns by pianist Bob Butta, bassist Mike Graham, Jr., and drummer Jesse Moody, as well as Lamkin’s trumpet and Michael Hairston’s saxophone in the lead.

“The Sportsman” is the first of four tunes dedicated, in their titles, to former jazz clubs/lounges where Lamkin and his band performed for live audiences. My toes kept tapping and my fingers were snapping as I listened to “The Avenue,” as well as “Baker’s Closet,” “Blues for the Cage,” and “Hittin’ at the Haven’;” the latter three tunes round out the jazz club tribute.

Every major city around the globe, it seems, has its own “Avenue,” and Lamkin captures its universal essence with a fast-paced, urban rhythm and melodies depicting the feeling of pedestrians and vehicles going somewhere and taking care of their business. Similarly, “Baker’s Closet,” has an energetic, nearly frenetic tempo. For a Blues song, “Blues for the Cage” has a relatively fast tempo, reminding me of the “Odd Couple” theme. “Hittin’ at the Haven” recalls the former Northwood jazz spot, The Haven—the only one of these four clubs I ever made it to, although, by the time I went there, it had passed its prime. But Lamkin’s ode portrays its better days, with a fast-moving beat similar to that of “The Avenue.”   

“Eartha’s Dance,” a tribute to Lamkin’s wife Eartha and her love for dancing, slows down the pace to mellow. Still, it got me on my feet, doing a cha-cha. As the song channeled her joyful spirit, it also reminded me of my own family’s Friday night music sessions where, as a child, I learned to dance to the rhythm of various styles of music.

If I really knew how to dance (believe me, I don’t!), you would have seen me doing a boogaloo to “Keep It Movin’,” which has a fast, classic-60’s feel. Instead, I imagined James Brown’s sliding and gliding dance moves, or myself doing The Jerk—the short-lived but fun teen-party dance fad of the 1960s.

Two other tunes, “Homage” and “Ode to George Floyd,” stopped me in my tracks, reminding me of times gone by, for better and for worse. “Homage” honors the resilience and persistence of the human spirit during difficult times, both past and present, and both universally and personally. Initially intended to honor Lamkin’s own family, friends, mentors, colleagues, and others who kept him moving toward his goals as a musician, he changed the focus of this song, as described in the liner notes, to the “doctors, nurses, and first responders who put their lives on the line so that we may live.” The song maintains a bounce rhythm, but the melody is more reflective. In contrast, “Ode to George Floyd” is a slow and mournful song, with a tinge of Blues, mirroring the world-weary yet hopeful life and tragic death of Mr. Floyd.

The final song on the album is the old spiritual, “Go Down, Moses.” But Lamkin imbues the song with a bit of a swing, similar to the way in which a New Orleans Jazz band might play it, demonstrating, as he has throughout this delightful album, that everything in life is moving.

On Saturday, March 9, 2024, Caton Castle hosted John Lamkin and The Favorites Jazz Quintet for the CD Release of Movin’. The CD will also be available from Bills Music in Catonsville, MD, the Maryland Music Academy in Columbia, MD, and on all of the online streaming platforms, including Amazon, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, and others.

–by Jackie Oldham

Jackie Oldham is a Baltimore native who writes essays, poetry, memoirs, and short stories on many topics in her blog, She has done readings at various Baltimore venues and on radio shows. Her essays have appeared as editorials and letters in the Baltimore Sun. She retired from a career as a copy editor, trainer, and team leader for the former Waverly Press and its successors. She is also a musician who loves all kinds of music, including jazz.

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