Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Johns, Steve (Stephen Samuel)
He began playing the drums at the age of nine. Johns grew up in a very musical family. His mother was a songwriter and three of her brothers were jazz musicians. One of these brothers was the late great Jimmy "Bottoms up" Tyler, a well- known jazz saxophonist that would prove to be Steve's biggest musical influence and inspiration. At the age of fifteen, Steve decided to pursue jazz as a life long ambition. Steve's uncle Jimmy suggested that he should get serious and study with the late great drummer and master teacher Alan Dawson. With that advice, Steve began an intense three-year study with Dawson. Also Steve studied with Boston based drum guru Bob Gullotti. While in high school, Steve participated in many musical activities such as concert band and jazz band. Steve also won chairs in district jazz band and all state jazz band. In 1979 after graduating Natick High School, Johns enrolled at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and studied classical percussion with Fred Buda and Vic Firth. While at NEC, Steve met and played around Boston with local greats James Williams, Billy Pierce, Jimmy Mosher, Miroslav Vitous, Jerry Bergonzi, Tiger Okoshi, Mick Goodrick, Jeff Berlin and Mike Stern.
In the spring of 1982, Steve decided he would take his chances and move to New York City. Shortly after arriving in NYC, He started meeting and working with some of the great known and unknown young jazz musicians at the time such as Joe Locke, Ralph Moore, Bill Evans, Steve Slagle, Conrad Herwig, Vincent Herring, Kevin Eubanks, Rodney Jones, Lonnie Plaxico, Dennis Erwin, Dave Stryker and Benny Green. Over the past twenty years Steve Johns has worked, recorded and collaborated with: Donald Byrd, Nat Adderley, Larry Willis, Walter Booker, Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson The Count Basie Orchestra under Frank Foster, Gil Evans Orchestra under Gil and Miles Evans, George Russell, Don Friedman, Lou Donaldson, The Vanguard Orchestra, Toshiko Akiyoshi/ Lew Tabakin Big Band, The Bob Mintzer Quartet and Big Band, John Hicks, George Cables, Peter Leitch, Larry Coryell, Peter Warren, Peter Yellin, Valerey Ponamarov, Junior Cook, Leon Thomas, The Sonny Fortune Quartet, Frank Morgan, Benny Carter, Phil Woods, Illinois Jacquet, The Billy Taylor trio, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Steve Kahn, Helen Merrill, Jack McDuff, Thomas Chapin Trio, Peter Brainin, Mario Pavone, Diane Schuur, Marty Ehrlich, Stanley Turrentine, Slide Hampton, Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Heath, John McNeil, Mingus Big Band, Dakota Staton, The Jon Faddis Quartet and many others. Steve was the drummer for NPR&rsqu o;s "Billy Taylor's Jazz at The Kennedy Center" in which he recorded 75 shows with guest including Wynton Marsalis, Nancy Wilson, Joe Lavano, Arturo Sandoval, Ray Barreto, Milt Jackson, Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker, Grover Washington, Gary Burton, Harry Sweet Edison etc. As well as having a busy performance schedule, Johns has taught at the Vermont Jazz Center, The Jazz In July Program at UMass, The Thelonious Monk Institute in Aspen Colorado and Williams College in Massachusetts.
Steve currently resides in Englewood, NJ with his wife Debbie Keefe who is a professional jazz saxophonist and music educator. They have a son Daryl Keefe Johns who is six years old.
Recordings as co-leader:
Steve Johns/Peter Brainin: Ceremony (1998), No Saints/No Sinners (2002)
Luis Bonilla: Escucha (1999); Billy Taylor: Homage (1995), Music Keeps You Young (1996); George Russell: The London Concert (1990); Mario Pavone: Toulon Days (1992) Song For Septet (1994) Dancers Tales (1997); Thomas Chapin: I've Got Your Number (1993) Anima (1993), Alive (1999); Leon Thomas /Gary Bartz: Precious Energy (1993); Rich Shemaria: 3AM (1998); Ada Ravotti with Randy Brecker/ Mike Stern /Don Alias (2003); Michael Rabinowitz: Gabrielle's Balloon (1995); Thomas Chapin: Third Force (1990); Mulgrew Miller/Charles Fambrough/Mark Kramer: Stone Jazz (2003); John McNeil/Kenny Berger: Hip Deep (1996), Brooklyn Ritual (1998); Tom Boras: Three Houses; Chris Rogers: Voyage Home (with Michael Brecker and Steve Kahn); New York Jazz Collective: I Don't Know This World (1996); Ed Jackson: Wake Up Call (1994); Jim Hartog: Time And The City (1997); Jane Blackstone: Natural Habitat (2002); Steve Slagle: Smoke Signals (1991); Jens Wendelboe: Letter From New York (featuring Kenny Garrett) (1985); Michael Musillami: The Young Child (1992), Glass Art (featuring Randy Brecker) (1993), Groove Teacher (1999)