Howard Johnson (jazz musician)

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Howard Johnson
Howard Johnson in 2013
Howard Johnson in 2013
Background information
Birth nameHoward Lewis Johnson
Born (1941-08-07) August 7, 1941 (age 79)
Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.
InstrumentsTuba, baritone saxophone

Howard Lewis Johnson (born August 7, 1941) in Montgomery, Alabama, is an American jazz musician known mainly for his work on tuba and baritone saxophone, although he also plays the bass clarinet, trumpet, and other reed instruments.[1]

Johnson has accompanied George Gruntz extensively. As a leader, he released three albums during the 1990s for Verve Records, the first Arrival, a tribute to Pharoah Sanders.


In the 1960s he worked with Charles Mingus, Hank Crawford, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Archie Shepp, and Hank Mobley on the album A Slice of the Top. He also began a long association with Gil Evans in 1966. He was arranger of a horn section that backed Taj Mahal on Mahal's 1971 live album, The Real Thing, which featured three other tubists/multi-instrumentalists, Bob Stewart, Joseph Daley and Earl McIntyre. Johnson also played with The Band on their Rock of Ages live album, The Last Waltz and into the late 2000s with The Band drummer, Levon Helm's Band. During the 1970s, he was the live band conductor of the Saturday Night Live Band; he can be seen in several musical numbers, including playing bass saxophone in the King Tut sketch.

He has also led three tuba bands, collaborated with Tomasz Stanko, Substructure, Tuba Libre and GRAVITY, perhaps his best-known band. He has recorded frequently.

In 1981 he performed at the Woodstock Jazz Festival, held in celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Creative Music Studio.

In 1984, he appeared as part of the Gil Evans Orchestra, accompanying Jaco Pastorius at the Live Under The Sky Festival in Japan.

He had a minor role in the 1983 film, Eddie and the Cruisers as Wendell's replacement. He has also appeared in episodes of Matlock and Hill Street Blues.

Johnson famously accompanied James Taylor in a performance of Jelly Man Kelly on Sesame Street in 1983, and also on tin whistle when Taylor sings to Oscar The Grouch.[2]

Howard Johnson has two grown children, David and Nedra. David (1964–2009) was an actor in New York, and lived in Brooklyn. Nedra is an accomplished and respected blues singer and musician.


Howard Johnson with Pharoah Sanders (2013)

As leader[edit]

  • 1994: Arrival: A Pharoah Sanders Tribute (Verve)
  • 1995: Gravity!!! (Verve)
  • 1998: Right Now (Verve)
  • 2017: Testimony (Tuscarora)

As sideman[edit]

With George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band

  • The George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band with Guest Star Elvin Jones (MPS, 1978)
  • At Zürich Schauspielhaus (Kenwood, 1981)
  • Live 82 (Amiga, 1982)
  • Theatre (ECM, 1983)
  • Happening Now! (Hat Hut, 1987)
  • First Prize (Enja, 1989)
  • Beyond Another Wall (TCB, 1991)
  • Blues 'n' Dues et Cetera (Enja, 1991)
  • Ray Anderson & The George Gruntz Big Band (Gramavision, 1994)

With Mario Pavone


  1. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Howard Johnson". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  2. ^ Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street; Chapter 15

External links[edit]