LaMont Johnson

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LaMont Johnson
Born (1941-10-01)October 1, 1941
New York City, NY, US
Died October 21, 1999(1999-10-21) (aged 58)
Austin, Texas, US
Genres Jazz, soul, funk
Occupation(s) Pianist
Record label owner
Film producer
Instruments Piano
Years active 1962–1999
Associated acts Jackie McLean, Scotty Holt

LaMont Johnson (October 1, 1941 – October 21, 1999) was an American jazz pianist who played in the hard bop and post-bop genres.[1] He recorded extensively with Jackie McLean during the 1960s as well as with Ornette Coleman, Kenny Burrell, Bud Shank, Paul Beaver, and Bernie Krause, among others.[2]


James LaMont Johnson was born in New York City, New York.[1][3] During his childhood he took dancing, singing, and mime lessons, and appeared on the Star Time Kids television program at age 7.[3] He later served in the United States Air Force in Germany, after which he attended Manhattan College and Syracuse University.[3]

Johnson began his recording career in 1962.[3] In New York City, he worked with tubist Howard Johnson and trumpeter Woody Shaw as the bebop period came to an end.[3] Throughout the 1960s, he recorded with artists such as Jackie McLean, Ornette Coleman, and George Benson.[3] Later in the same decade, Johnson began composing music for films and advertisements.[3]

Johnson lived and worked in San Diego, California, where he established the record label MasterScores Records.[3]

In his later years, Johnson lived in Austin, Texas, where he continued to perform at venues such as Top of the Marc, and released I'll Be Home for Kwanzaa on the Bagel Label.[3][4] During this time, he appeared on Jackie's Blues Bag by the Hip Bop Essence All Stars, a group that also included Branford Marsalis, Javon Jackson, and Vincent Herring.[3] He also worked with Black Entertainment Television.[3] Between 1991 and 1997, he was involved with more than 30 jazz festivals, as either a performer or producer.[3]

On October 21, 1999, Johnson died of heart failure in Austin, Texas, where he lived with his wife, Jayne Taylor Johnson.[3] Johnson had two daughters, Astrid and Ky–Leigh, and two sons, Neil and Rand.[3] At the time of his death, Johnson had indicated his plans to return to San Diego.[3]

Johnson worked in the film industry during the 1970s as a distributor and producer.[3] He produced the 1973 martial arts film Thunderfist.[3][5] Johnson was a major shareholder in the film distributors Artisan Releasing and Twin World Films, and formed another distributorship, Elmark General Film.[3]

LaMont and his brother Keith established a record company (funded by MBA, a midtown production company) on the Lower East Side in New York City in 1966. It was located on 53 Pitt Street, in a former seltzer factory, and was named Down East Records. The site housed the offices for Down East along with a small recording studio in the back of the building. The label released an R&B single by Justin entitled "Right Now". This became one of the first R&B records to utilize a fusion of Latin, jazz, and R&B music in commercial music. The same studio was also the site of demo recordings for Cat Mother (a rock group associated with Jimi Hendrix) as well as recording sessions for an Ornette Coleman album.[citation needed]

Many of the jazz musicians from Slug's Saloon, a jazz club in the East Village, would use Down East to record demos. In 1967, the Down East roster performed at the bandshell in the East Village's Tompkins Square Park. Down East Records had one record that made it to the airwaves ("Right Now") and it was played on WWRL once every few hours. The label went out of business in 1969. The label's successes included major sales in Africa, and in the Mid-Atlantic region ranging from Washington, DC to Baltimore, MD. The artists performed on television shows such as The Hit Kit and gave radio interviews. Other staff members that worked with LaMont Johnson at Down East were Harry Bass, who had previously worked with Motown; Jimmy Hall, who had worked with and sang with many successful groups in the New York area; and James (Jimmy Mack) McNary who had worked as a musician/writer/promoter with many New York record companies.[citation needed]


As leader[edit]

  • 1972: Sun, Moon and Stars (Mainstream Records)
  • 1976: Nine: A Mystical Musical Allegory (Orchard)
  • 1979: Aces (Orchard)
  • 1987: New York Exile (Orchard)
  • 1991: Burned by the Passion (MasterScores)
  • 1997: Jackie's Blues Bag (Hip Bop Essence)
  • 1998: 242 E 3rd (Orchard)
  • 2000: Collaboration (with Kenny Burrell)

As sideman[edit]

with Jackie McLean
with Hank Mobley


  1. ^ a b "LaMont Johnson". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  2. ^ "LaMont Johnson: Credits". Allmusic. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Autman, Samuel (1999-10-30). "LaMont Johnson; jazz composer, performer" (Fee required). The San Diego Union-Tribune. San Diego: The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. p. B7. Retrieved 2010-10-28. 
  4. ^ Lieck, Ken (1997-10-31). "Dancing About Architecture:Never Everland". The Austin Chronicle. Austin: Austin Chronicle Corp. p. B7. ISSN 1074-0740. Retrieved 2010-10-28. [T]here's a big benefit being held for the band at Top of the Marc tonight (Thursday) between 6-9pm, with Lamont Johnson [sic] and others performing... 
  5. ^ IMDb only indicates Johnson's role as composer. Thunderfist on IMDb