Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Johnson, Art (N. Arthur)

Johnson, Art (N. Arthur), guitarist, composer, violinist; b. San Diego, CA, 18 October 1945.

He started taking accordion lessons at the age of seven, but as he didn't like this instrument, he gave it up a couple of years later, and picked up a guitar only around the age of sixteen. In the meantime he would listen to his older sister's jazz LPs. Around the age of seventeen Art had to go to hospital for a leg operation - he had contracted polio at the age of five - where he had to stay in bed for six months. That's where he really started to work on guitar, especially after having heard on the radio Andre Segovia, Wes Montgomery and Barney Kessel. His sister was dating a bass player who heard him practicing in his room and asked him to join his band. His career started out that way, it was never anything planned. Later, when he was eighteen or nineteen, he went San Diego State University and after one semester the head of the music department said he was not good enough at classical guitar to continue (there was no jazz major at the time).

He moved to Los Angeles in '68 and lived there for twenty-two years. At first, to fill the time, he got a cheap violin and played it a bit, but he soon gave it up (though he returned to it years later). Soon after arriving, he was playing and recording with a new group called The Advancement which included vibraphonist Lynn Blessing. They had intended to use Gabor Szabo but he couldn't be located, and Johnson successfully auditioned. Harvey Siders wrote a huge article about Johnson in the LA newspaper after hearing him at the studio. Soon he was working with Willie Bobo, Paul Horn, Tim Weisberg and John Klemmer, recording with the latter three. Johnson's musical experiences went way beyond jazz including playing eccentric country tunes with "Gas, Food & Lodging," being featured on violin, mandolin and guitar with Pat Boone, touring with Tim Buckley (1974-75), movie soundtracks, studio work, and working with Lena Horne, O.C. Smith, the San Diego S ymphony and even Engelbert Humperdinck. Many times Art was the only "white guy" performing with black jazz and blues bands including several stints at Memory Lane in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles. In LA he studied classical guitar with Herbert Stewart, a student of Andre Segovia, and classical/flamenco guitarist Philip Boroff. Studied with Barney Kessel 1969.

He once had the good fortune to sit down with Wes Montgomery, face to face, for a brief guitar lesson and some rather good guidance. Wes, wearing his ever present mischievous smile looked in his eyes and said, "...son, there is a whole lot of wonderful notes in a very small area of the neck...take your time.!" Eventually he earned an M.A. in Music Performance.

He performed Brazilian music with sidemen of Jobim, and has studied the Renaissance lute, giving several recitals. In L.A. Art worked in film and recording studios, and has participated on Grammy nominated and Academy award winning music. Art has toured extensively in the U.S, Europe and Canada, performing in most major concert halls around the world including Carnagie Hall, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Sporting Club in Monte-Carlo and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Johnson has performed or recorded with Tim Weisberg, Lena Horne Tim Buckley, Paul Horn, Willie Bobo, Ray Pizzi, Shelley Manne, Papa John Creach, Eartha Kitt, Clarence White, O.C. Smith and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinsen, Lena Horne, Allan Holdsworth and Mark O'connor, to name just a few.
As a composer, Art's instrumental compositions have been recorded by flautists, Paul Horn and Tim Weisberg. Art's composed a piece for renowned French violinist Didier Lockwood, which Lockwood performed in concert in France in 2004 with Art in the audience. Known as the "Fusion Wunderkind" in Los Angeles during the late '60s and early '70s, Art was voted as the most promising jazz guitarist by Leonard Feather in Downbeat Magazine after his performance at the Monterey Jazz festival in l970. In 1984 Art started performing with pianist Dwayne Smith as a duo at L.A.'s local jazz venues. Voted by Music Connection as "Best duo in Los Angeles" their performance at the Santa Barbara jazz festival also earned a good review from Leonard Feather. Art lived during the 1990s in San Diego performing steadily in clubs and concert halls. He was for five years associate professor at San Diego State University offering instruction in jazz improvisation for all instruments as well as guitar.  He also taught privately for many years. During the first quarter of the Millennium, January through March 2000, Art presented a four part series on the  "History of Jazz Guitar" at the San Diego Museum of Art.   The successfully attended lecture/performance series also attracted such great jazz guitar heroes as, Barney Kessel and Oscar-Castro Neves, both of which attended several of the presentations. He has recently returned seriously to the violin, electric and acoustic, to his expressive talents, and has two-violin cd's out, one of which has a written endorsement by Mark O'Connor. Art has appeared as a sideman on over 40 albums as well as numerous film scores.

He first came to the South France when he was on a tour with Lena Horne and came back under his own name in 2001. His wife is French, from Nice. Art had a very successful debut in the South of France touring two times in 2001 in July and in the fall, and now divides his time between the U.S and Europe. Beginning in May 2002 Art spent six month in France and there associated himself with the best French jazz musicians in the area, including Jean Marc Jaffet, Jean Yves Candella, Jean Luc Dana, Eddie Gaulein-Stef, Marc Peillon, Amaury Filliard and Rene Sopa. Art performed at the Juan les Pins jazz festival with his quartet as well as the Cap d'Ail jazz festival and St Jeannet festival. In 2004 Art formed in France his own Jazz trio with Marc Peillon contrebasse and Alain Asplanato drummer, and perform steadily in clubs and festivals. He also joined with his violin an electrojazz group. He chooses to reside in the South of France.

Art Johnson/Dwayne Smith: Heartbound (1985); Art Johnson/Joanne Grauer: Time Remembered (1989); Textures (1997); Art Johnson/Frederique Alarie: Contact (1998); Solo Jazz Guitar (produced by Barney Kessel, 2000); Art Johnson/Dwayne Smith: Jazz Live (2000), Bar Talk (2000)
As sideperson:
The Advancement: The Advancement (1969); John Klemmer: All the Children Cried (1970), Eruptions (1970); Tim Weisberg: Hurtwood Edge (1970), Tim Weisberg (1971); Gil Melle: Waterbirds (1970); Tim Weisberg: 4 (1973), Dream Speaker (1973); Paul Horn: July 9-10 recorded live (1971), Special Edition (1971); Willie Bobo: Live at Shelley Manne (1971);
Nashville: Movie score (1975); Dwayne Smith: Get Directly Down (1978); Tim Weisberg: Night Rider (1979); Lena Horne: Live at Georgetown University (1980); Barbara Steisand: Emotions (1984); San Diego Symphony: Hollywood Movie Themes (1992); Weller Brothers: 1993)

Television broadcasts:
The Psychiatrist NBC/Universal
James at Fiveteen Paramount/NBC
House of Haunted Hill NBC movie of the week
The Bionic Woman NBC
France 3 television broadcast news November 19 2002

Nashville Robert Altman
Welcome to L.A. Robert Altman- Alan Rudolf
Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Universal Pictures
Documentary- Lena Horne Smithsonian, Washington D.C.
Christmas without you Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton  aired seasonly on MTV/TNN
The nature of sound Karl Hermanns Working Arts San Diego
Howard University  Washington D.C. 1980 concert with  Lena Horne now in Smithonian archives
Video taped performance GIT Los Angeles 1995
Video taped performance with Papa John Creach Illariois jazz club San Diego 1999

Jazz Player  photo cover and 9 pages interview April 96
Down Beat  June 1970
The Plain Dealer July 1980
Guitar Player August 1982
Cedros Review Spring 1998
Slamm December 1998
Quebec Audio July 1998 March 1999
Uhf Magazine 1999
Hour  (Montreal) October 1998
Voir (Montreal) October 1998
Ici (Montreal) October 1998
Jazz News March 1998
Stylis December 2000
Jazz Artists Guild July 2001
Vintage Guitar December 2001
Fnac (Monaco) July And December 2001
Monaco-Matin July 2001/
Nice-Matin (French News Paper) November 2001
Nice-Matin (Antibes) December  2001
Le Petit Journal Jazz A Juan July 2002
Jazz Hot (France) October 2002
Nice-Matin  November 2002 7 And 18
Just Jazz Guitar November 2002
CD review written by Johnson: http://www.fineguitarconsultants.com/fgcmol/art13.htm
Interview from 2002: http://www.jazzbreak.com/interview.php?lg=1&ID=1639

Academy award participant music best song 1976 featured performer title "I'm Easy" by Keith Carradine in the movie Nashville by Robert Altmann
Grammy nominee for album by Ray Pizzi "The love letter," category jazz 1979

Contact information:
Art Johnson: art@dppmonaco.com
Management: management@dppmonaco.com

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