J. J. Johnson

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J. J. Johnson (born James Louis Johnson) in Indianapolis, Indiana, (January 22, 1924 - February 4, 2001) was a United States jazz trombonist, composer and arranger. He was sometimes credited as Jay Jay Johnson.

Johnson was one of the first trombonists to embrace bebop music. He has long been regarded as one of the leading trombonists of the post-swing era, exerting a pervasive influence on other jazz musicians.[1]

Contents

Biography

Big bands

After studying the piano beginning at age 9, Johnson decided to play trombone at the age of 14. In 1941, he started his professional career with Clarence Love, and then played with Snookum Russell in 1942. In Russell's band he met the trumpeter Fats Navarro, who influenced him to play in the style of the tenor saxophonist Lester Young. Johnson played in Benny Carter's orchestra between 1942 and 1945, and made his first recordings in 1942 under Carter's leadership, recording his first solo (on Love for Sale) in October, 1943. In 1944, he took part in the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert, presented in Los Angeles and organized by Norman Granz.[2] In 1945 he joined the big band of Count Basie, touring and recording with him until 1946.

Bebop

While the trombone was featured prominently in dixieland and swing music, it fell out of favor among bebop and later jazz fusion musicians, largely because instruments with valves and keys (trumpet, saxophone) were believed to be more suited to bebop's often rapid tempos and demand for technical mastery. In 1946, Bebop "co-inventor" Dizzy Gillespie encouraged the young trombonist's development with the comment, "I've always known that the trombone could be played different, that somebody'd catch on one of these days. Man, you're elected."[3]

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