Smile (CDJRH10)
Album release December 2008 (UK)

1. Lovely Day
2. Walk In The Night
3. Smile
4. Help Me Make It Through The Night
5. Let's Stick Together
6. Midnight Hour
7. The Way You Look Tonight
8. Cavatina (Theme from The Deerhunter)
9. Desafinado
11.Careless Whisper
12.Boogie On Reggae Woman
13.Flip Flop Fly


'Smile' is CD number 10 in Johnny Hooper's prolific career as a great saxophonist, recording artist and entertainer. We asked Johnny about some of the tracks he has chosen:

Johnny first heard Junior Walker’s version of ‘Walk In The Night’ 30 years ago whilst waiting for a taxi on a cold rainy night in Newport, his home town. “There was an 8-track playing in the waiting room” he says “and I heard this amazing tune by Junior Walker. Well, it took so long for the taxi to arrive that the 8-track went on a second loop and by the time I heard it again I loved it.” When Johnny had the opportunity to record this song, composed by Johnny Bristol, he was thrilled with the finished track. “It has turned out to be one of my favourite tracks on the album – the more modern arrangement by Carl (Simmonds) is tremendous and Hywel Maggs’ guitar solo is amazing”.

The title track ‘Smile’ was co-written by Charlie Chaplin. “It’s a song I’ve always loved and Carl’s string arrangement on this version is outstanding!”

This is the first time that a Johnny Hooper album has featured a horn section – Steve Matthews and Roger Snook make up ‘The Groove Daddy Horns’ which feature on four tracks. “ Way back in 1977 I had only been playing for 2 months, when I met Steve in a record shop in Newport. He noticed I had just bought Andy Mackay’s (of Roxy Music) solo album ‘In Search of Eddie Riff’ and we got chatting – it turns out Steve had been playing the sax for 5 years. We went back to his house and he started playing along with his Selmer Mk 1V to the record I had just bought. I was really blown away and was totally inspired to be able to play like that one day. We’ve remained firm friends ever since and I was thrilled he was able to come into the studio and play baritone on the new album.”

‘The Way You Look Tonight’ is a classic standard written by Jerome Kern and covered by many, including Fred Astaire, “but I really like the Michael Bublé arrangement” says Johnny.

Johnny also worked on four Bossa Nova tracks by Antonio Carlos Jobim in the studio but ultimately decided to include just one of them on the album, the classic ‘Desafinado’. He may include the others on a future album.

‘Boogie On Reggae Woman’ was written by Stevie Wonder. “We’ve performed this live as a band and it’s a great pop song that works really well as an instrumental. I’ve been considering doing more reggae tracks, perhaps even an entire reggae album in the future – I used to listen to all those great songs from the Trojan label when I was fifteen!”

The album finishes with the very infectious ‘Flip Flop Fly’. How did Johnny come to choose this fantastic track? “My daughter Greta (a wonderful singer in her own right with a big powerful voice) lives just in the next valley from where Carl’s studio is. I popped in to see her and my (then) 5 year-old grand-daughter Tia. Tia had it playing on the stereo and she loved the song and wanted to know if I could play it on the saxophone. When I went back into the studio, Carl worked on an arrangement and we brought Greta in to do the backing vocals on ‘Flip Flop Fly’ and also on ‘Lovely Day’.”