IT'S NOT necessary to be a fan of Wes Montgomery and George Benson's pop-jazz guitar albums to enjoy Henry Johnson's latest release "Never Too Much," but it wouldn't hurt.
Like Montgomery and Benson, Johnson explores crossover turf with considerable flair and ease. His formidable technique is apparent here and there, but more often he's apt to stick to the middle ground, choosing melodic flights over unbridled improvisation and fashionable pop accompaniment over a jazz setting. Needless to say, the results aren't particularly adventurous, but they're certainly hummable and radio-friendly, which is no doubt just what Johnson and his major record label set out to achieve.
Producer Dean Gant, who's helped out Anita Baker in the past, brings a breezy Bensonesque pop luster to the Luther Vandross title track as well as to a funky remake of the James Taylor hit "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." But it's Johnson himself who contributes the album's most alluring melody, "A Love Like That."
Sometimes, however, the emphasis on lite jazz textures and accessibility makes the rhythm tracks sound downright mechanical, and the synthesized backdrops on "Nightlife" and other tracks don't help matters any.