Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians

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Johnston, Phillip (John)

Johnston, Phillip (John), soprano, alto, tenor saxophones, piano, ukulele, composer; b. Chicago, IL, 22 January 1955. He grew up in New York, from age 2. His father William Joseph Johnston (1924) is a writer. His mother is Anne Korba Johnston (1926). His brothers and sisters are Susan Johnston Shanahan (1957), Peter McHenry Johnston (1959), Thomas Matthew Johnston (1963), and Kelly Johnston Guevara (1965). He studied saxophone with Lennie Popkin in New York and Gordon Fels in San Francisco; piano with Don Friedman. composition with Edgar Grana.

Johnston has been the leader of Microscopic Septet (1980-1993), Big Trouble (1991-1995), and Transparent Quartet. He's worked with Richard Foreman, Eugene Chadbourne, John Zorn, Peter Stampfel & the Bottlecaps, Julius Eastman, Bobby Previte, Charles K. Noyes, Elliott Sharp, the dBs, Mikel Rouse/Broken Consort, the ROVA Saxophone Quartet, Lenny Pickett's Borneo Horns, Butch Morris, Jim Staley, Wayne Horvitz, J.A. Deane, Shelley Hirsch, Mitchell Korn, the Raybeats, ISM, Mofungo, Public Servants, Tirez Tirez, Bobby Radcliff, Bob Holman, Jim Brodey, Pat Irwin, Guy Klucevsek, Walter Thompson, Nora York, Earl King, Edgar Grana, Yael Strom, Kitty Brazelton's Da Da Da, Kustard Kings and others. He's made tours of Europe, Canada and the United States, with Microscopic Septet, Big Trouble & The TQ. Venues he has performed at include the Texaco New York Jazz Festival,  JVC Jazz Festival (3x), Town Hall (NYC), Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Ot tawa Jazz Festival, Sun Valley (Idaho) Music Festival, Merkin Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Roulette, Carnegie Hall, Montreal Jazz Festival, Berlin Jazz Festival, Groeningen Jazz Festival (Netherlands), Musica delle Ombre Festival (Rome), Museum of Fine Art (Boston), Tampere Jazz Festival (Finland), Mellon Jazz Festival,  The Big Day Out and the Sydney Fringe Festival. He's made appearances in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia leading Quintet.

His teaching experience includes Film Music at New York University/Tisch School of the Arts (2000-present), Music at New York University/Steinhardt School of Music (1999-present) and Film Music at Ramapo College (2000). He's been a visiting artist/guest lecturer on jazz history at Columbia University (1987), saxophone at Greenwich House (substitute, 1993), music composition at Bard College (1997) and film music at Ohio University/Athens (1997/1998). He's taught private students saxophone/composition from 1985-1993.

He's currently leading The Transparent Quartet, performing duo with Guy Klucevsek, and septet Fast n Bulbous: The Music of Captain Beefheart, with Gary Lucas. His wife is Hillary Bell (b. 1966). His children are Moss Theo Bell Johnston (2000) and Ivy Coco Bell Johnston (2003).

Misc. compositions:
2002    orchestrated The Georges Melies project for chamber music group, Relache; premiered at Delaware Center for Perf. Arts, & Prince Music Theatre, Philadelphia.
2001    "The Mermaid" brass quintet
1998    jazz orchestra compositions performed in concert at New England Conservatory of Music.
1997    "Song of Fear" octet commissioned by Alaria Chamber Ensemble, premiered at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, NYC.
1992    "Hymn of the Souls Who Are Passing", "Got Lucky" for jazz orchestra, commissioned and premiered by Walter Thompson Orchestra at LaMaMa Theatre & Greenwich House
1991    "Squibs" trio for flute, tuba, and marimba, commissioned by SingleTree and premiered at the Knitting Factory Chamber Music series; "Sleeping Beauty" brass quintet for Meridian Arts Ensemble, and performed at Merkin Hall     (NYC) and on U.S. tours.
1990    "Carmen's Fantasy" suite for brass band and other new works premiered at Roulette (NYC)
1989    Contributed tape music to John Cage's Rosart Mix, performed at 20th Anniversary of Merce Cunningham Studio.
1988    "Pontius Pilate Polka" performed by Guy Klucevsek's Polkas From the Fringe at BAM and on tour in U.S. and Europe.
1986    "Big Trouble"  for jazz orchestra, premiered by The New York Composers Orchestra, Greenwich House, NYC;
1984    Solo soprano saxophone compositions performed on CTV's Expressions in Music; Soundtrack for R. Nemo Hill's Dictionary of Surrealist Phrases, performed at St. Marks Poetry Project.
1979    "Kabir" for the ROVA Saxophone Quartet; performed in the U.S. and in Europe.
1972-96   Numerous compositions and arrangements for various groups including The Microscopic Septet, Joel Forrester Septet, Phillip Johnston's Idea, Wayne Horvitz, the dBs, Raybeats, Shelley Hirsch, Nora York, Tigresa, Twilight Time, The Greasy Chicken Orchestra.

The Microscopic Sextet: Take The Z Train (1982), Let's Flip! (1985), Off Beat Glory (1986), Beauty Based on Science (1988); Big Trouble (1993); The Unknown (1994);
Flood At The Ant Farm (1996); Music For Films (1998); The Needless Kiss (1998); The Merry Frolics of Satan (1999); Normalology (2001); Tales From The Cryptic (duo with Guy Klucevsek) (2003); Fast N' Bulbous (co-leader with Gary Lucas); Rare Beauty: Intimate Gems of Duke Ellington (duo w/David Hofstra, 1 selection)
Recordings with his compositions:
Guy Klucevsek: Heart of the Andes, Who Stole The Polka?; Meridian Art Ensemble: Smart Went Crazy; Nora York: To Dream The World
As sideperson:
Joel Forrester: Joel Forrester and the Illustrious Other; Kitty Brazelton: Love Not Love Lust Not Lust; Lou Grassi: Quick Wits; Walter Thompson Orchestra: The Colonel; Mikel Rouse: A Walk In The Woods, Jade Tiger, Story of the Year, Code of the West, Skin; Guy Klucevsek: Heart of The Andes, Who Stole The Polka?; Meridian Arts Ensemble: Smart Went Crazy; Joe Gallant/Illuminati: Skin, Code of the West; Dominique Eade: When The Wind Was Cool; Michael Callen: Legacy; Mark Brine: New Blue Yodel; Nora York: To Dream The World; Bobby Radcliff: Early In the Morning; Sue Garner: To Run More Smoothly; Grant King: Let Love Out; Paul McMahon: Paul McMahon; Mofungo: Out of Line; Public Servants: Jungle Hotel; Rex Fowler: Trains 'n Rain 'n Attitudes; Jennifer Trynin: Venus & Me; Fish & Roses: Fish & Roses, We Are Happy to Serve You; Brian Woodbury: BW & his Popular Music Group; Makigami Koichi: Koroshi No Blues; The Local Girls: Let Yourself Go

Radio broadcasts:
Live performances on WNYC-FM, WKCR-FM, WFMU-FM, KCRW-FM, and others (1980-03); Theme music for National Public Radio's Poetry International (Satellite broadcast) and WBAI's Readings From the St. Marks Poetry Project (1985); Composition for eight saxophones for WNYC's Sun Spots, produced by Andy Caploe (1986); Incidental music for Fresh Air & All Things Considered (NPR) (1991)

Television broadcasts:
MTV; VH-!; Nick At Nite/Nickelodeon; Comedy Central; TNT; Bravo; TV Land

Ford Motor Co.; Whirlpool; Blue Cross/Blue Shield; Broward Hospitals; Price Choppers

Film scores:
Committed   dir. by Lynne Tillman and Sheila McLaughlin (1984); Paradise dir. by Doris Dorrie (1986); When, If Not Now   dir. by Michael Juncker(1987); How To Be Louise dir. by Ann Flournoy(1988); What Then  dir. by John Inwood(1988); Geld  dir. by Doris Dorrie (1989); Money Man  dir. by Philip Haas (1992); The Clean Up   dir. by Jane Weinstock (1992); The Music of Chance  dir. by Philip Haas (1993); Umbrellas  dir. by Henry Corra/Graham Weinbren/Albert Maysles (1994); Faithful  dir. by Paul Mazursky (1996); Sana Que Sana  dir. by Ron Daniels (2000); Mackenheim dir. by Adam Barr (2001)

Silent film scores:
The Unknown  (1927) by Tod Browning, commissioned by and premiered at the American Museum of the Moving Image (1993); The Georges Melies Project  (1907-1912) commissioned by the American Museum of the Moving Image, premiered at Walter Reade Theatre, Lincoln Center (1997); Page of Madness  (1926) by Teinosuke Kinugasa, commissioned by Film Society of Lincoln Center, premiered at Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center (1998); Cops (1922) by Buster Keaton, commissioned by NYU Steinhardt School of Music, premiered at Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center (2001); Faust (1926) by F.W. Murnau, commissioned by Film Society of Lincoln Center, premiered at the New York Film Festival, Lincoln Center (2002)

Rain, Some Fish, No Elephants by Y York.  New Theatre, Brooklyn (1990); Young Goodman Brown by R. Foreman.  LaMaMa Theatre, NYC (1995);    Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks.  Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven. Public Theatre, NYC (1996); Stepping Out With Mr. Markham by Jeanne Dorsey. Soho Rep, NYC (1997); The Falls, by Hilary Bell, The Griffin Theatre, Sydney, AU (2000); Drawn To Death: A Three Panel Opera, with Art Spiegelman, Art at St. Ann's (2000); The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Ruysch, by Hilary Bell, Vitalstatistix, Adelaide, AU (2002); Comedy of Errors, by William Shakespeare, Bell Shakespeare Co., Sydney, AU (2002)    

Falling Girl by Emily Schottland, DTW (1985); Persons With Slumber by Emily Schottland, Merce Cunningham Studio, NYC (1986); The Predators' Ball by Karole Armitage, Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music (1996); The Adventures of Slap & Tickle by Keely Garfield, Sinister Slapstick, Lincoln Center (1997); The Further Adventures of Slap and Tickle, by Keely Garfield, DTW (1998); Thirty by Guta Hedewig, Danspace (1998); Minor Repairs Necessary , by Keely Garfield, DTW (1999); Rub Me The Wrong Way, by Keely Garfield, 91st St Y (2000); A Fishy Tale by Keely Garfield, DTW/World Trade Center, NYC (2001); Good Girl Daddy by Keely Garfield, Duke Theater on 42nd St., NYC (2002); Original commissioned works for Arnette DeMille, Geri Atwood (Dance Elements), Daniel Peters, Emily Schottland, Della Davidson.  (DTW, Merce Cunninham Studio, PS 122)

He recently completed an article on his silent films scores, mainly featuring his most recent, for F.W. Murnau's Faust French magazine: Jazzosphere, Music & Silent Film issue Vol. 2, no. 18. "L'esprit fu Faust"
Also there's a chapter on the Microscopic Septet in Francis Davis' book, "Jazz In The 80s".

1999 Mary Flagler Cary, Jerome Foundation, &  Meet The Composer for Keely Garfield at DTW
1998 Meet The Composer Grants for Guta Hedewig & Keely Garfield dance commissions.
1993 Meet The Composer/Lila E Wallace Readers Digest Fund grant for original score for "The Unknown" commissioned by the American Museum of the Moving Image.
1986 Meet The Composer grant for Persons with Slumber commissioned for choreographer Emily Schottland.
1986 Meet The Composer grant for Big Trouble, premiered by the New York Composers Orchestra, Wayne Horvitz, director.
1983 Meet The Composer grant for live performance of original music on WKCR-FM, New York.
1982 Meet The Composer grant for Ode to Genetic Material (music for 12 instruments), premiered at InRoads Theatre in New York City.  This grant was awarded on the basis of an earlier composition, A Momentary Illusion (music for 10 instruments).

The New York Dance & Performance Awards (AKA "Bessie") for Keely Garfield's Minor Repairs Necessary
1992 New York Festivals, Gold Award, for Entertainment Program Opener and Titles, for "100% Weird" for TNT.

Contact information:
Phillip Johnston
484 W. 43rd St., Apt. 31Q
New York, NY  10036-6333
(212) 244-8169 (home); (212) 245-6933 (studio)

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