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Howard Johnson

Freischaffender Tubist in New York City

Freischaffender Tubist in New York Cit After a term with U.S. Navy, Howard stayed in Boston with a family, whose son was drummer Tony Williams. In 1962, he moved to New York City on the advice of Eric Dolphy, where he met Pharoah Sanders, another recent arrival. The day he bought his first tuba, he went to a jam session and played with the likes of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Joe Albany and Carla Bley, who was so impressed that she included tuba in every one of her bands until the late 1980’s. In 1964, Howard went to watch Charles Mingus at the live spot and finally got his big break. Mingus was upset because his favourite tuba player, Red Callender, couldn’t make the next week’s gig at Birdland. Guess who was in the audience and ready with his tuba! After being pointed out to Mingus by Jaki Byard, whom he met in Boston, and after a story-book match of wit and skill between Howard and Mingus, Johnson had a gig that lasted for more than a year a half and took him across the continent. During this time ho got to know literally every player on the New York scene, including John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Cannonball Adderley. On one occasion, Gil Evans sat in front of him at a gig, remaining completely expressionless throughout the performance. Four days later, Evans called to invite Howard to join him in Monterey. Soon fìnding out that his tuba playing had inspired Gil to put together another band. That relationship lasted until Gil Evans passing in 1988. Over the years, Howard has worked with Hank Crawford, Archie Shepp, Buddy Rich, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, The Band, Taj Mahal….. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, he toured the world with George Gruntz, Dizzy Gillespie, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ekaya and more. He can also be heard on the soundtracks of Spike Lee’s School Daze, Mo’ Better Blues, Malcom X and Clockers. After his four year association with the NDR Big Band in Hamburg, Germany, Howard has returned to New York City with his first solo recording. ARRIVAL on Verve Motor, under his belt. In 1995, he recorded with John Scofield on GROOVE ELATION for Blue Note.

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