YOUR SOURCE OF JAZZ AND MORE IN WASHINGTON DC AND THE WORLD
EXPLORING AMERICA'S CLASSICAL MUSIC "JAZZ"
It's African Heritage, Legacy and Roots!
For best view with Desktop or Laptop
WASHINGTON DC JAZZ NETWORK HIGHLIGHTS
"PLANTING SEEDS 101"
by George V Johnson Jr
Jim Harrison, Promoter and Editor of the Jazz Spotlite News was the person who planted the seeds and influenced me to write my first article for his paper and also create the Washington DC Jazz Network 30 years later. I had no idea I was going to do this, but I guess it's destiny. The seeds are still growing...smile! Read my story. It's work in progress. Adding more each day..
@ The New School Jazz Recital 2016
Jazz Mobile Concert at Grants Tomb
James Moody presents George V Johnson Jr
Turn off music player below when viewing videos
Last week I decided to catch a bus to visit Charles Tolliver at The New School in NYC Jazz Recital directing the Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers Class Band. It was definitely a real treat.
While there I got to see an old friend, mentor, hipster, old school hustler, promoter-producer and innovator Jim Harrison, Founder of Jazz Spotlite News. Jim Harrison was the first person to take me under his wings when I moved to New York in 1979.
Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers Class Band, Directed by Charles Tolliver
Students from Israel who attend the New School are introduced by Charles Tolliver to Jim Harrison
We met when I joined the Barry Harris Jazz Choir. I sang in the choir with Barry 3 years and attended the saxophone workshops. I enjoyed it because when Barry gave the horn players different phrases to play I would would write lyrics on the spot and sing the phrases along with the horns. The Art of Jazz Vocalese. (writing and singing lyrics to improvised solos) I was his vocal interpreter. Barry loved that! He would eventually feature me along with James Moody at Town Hall in 1985 "To Bird With Love" with strings and 100 voices. Lots of great talent pass through there. It was a beautiful learning experience. Afterwards we you hook up several times per week at different clubs and concerts. Most days at The Jazz & Culture Theater. It was everyone's favorite spot. All the musicians hung out at the jam sessions, workshops and weekly concerts. When I first moved to the city I would go visit and sit in at different jazz clubs. Most of the cats would invite me up to sing. I didn't have a place to stay so afterward I rode and slept on the subway trains for several months until I got on my feet. It wasn't easy sleeping with one eye open. You had to be alert at all times and ready to throw down if you had to. I was 29 years old and could take care of myself. As you may know there are some crazy folks who ride the NY Subways... I never told my family what I was doing. I didn't want to because I gave up everything to move to the city. My job at WMATA Metro Bus operator, my apartment, everything to move to NYC. They would have thought I was crazy and going out of my head...hahahahha. Thank God for my mother because on some day I was broke as heck. I would call her up and she would send me a few bucks via Western Union, but she would always tell me don't tell you dad!!
I wanted NY bad because my mentor Eddie Jefferson "The True Father of the Art of Vocalese" was murdered about 5 months earlier in Detroit, so it was time for me to make my move. The first night in NY I sat in with George Coleman, Harold Maybern, Jamil Nasser, Philly Joe Jones at the Tin Palace. That same night I walked over to Sweet Basil to see Lou Donaldson. Both groups invited me up as soon as I walked in the clubs. It was Sweet Basil that I met Mark and Billy Johnson. We became friends instantly. They told me they were playing on the streets with their brother in-law George Braith, but first I had to save up to get a mouse amp. Soon I got a job with Network Temps as a Word Processor and was able to save some money to buy the amp and rent a room. Soon I began singing on the streets of New York. It hard at the beginning, but I was determined to make it in the City. I was on a mission. I would do it over again. We all have different choices in life and I wouldn't advise anyone to do what I did. It's too dangerous now. I knew I could take care of myself so I gave it try.
Singing with George Braith gave a chance to really develop. Almost everyday I started singing on the street several hours per day. In the group was
and Mark Johnson. Different musicians passing by would sit in... Larry Smith, Bobby Watson, Steve Coleman, Tommy Turrentine, C' Sharpe, and many others. It was very interesting, fun and creative. It was in NYC that I started developing my original lyrics to Charlie Parker's compositions. Imagine singing with George Braith and singing A Night In Tunisia, Now's the Time, Suede Shoes on the street corners. There was no other singers do the vocalese thing. So it was wide open. Singing daily had me at the top of my game. We drew lots of crowds.
also with Marvin Blackman's group. Marvin Blackman was a great unsung saxophonist. I met him during the early 70's by way of Eddie Jefferson at Joe Lee Wilson club "The Ladies Fort". Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon at Washington Square Park crowds would gather around act all day....comedians, jugglers, mimes, dancers, folk singers, violinist, blues guitarist and other acts would be out there on a regular basis. The money was good on most occasion depending whether you were doing something that everyone liked. Folks were moving from circle to circle. Hundreds of people would hang out there daily. It was one of the best spots to play. We make at least $100 each after a few sets. Soon I was able to get my first apartment. We played on the corners of 48th & Broadway (we made the most money on B'way), 59th & Columbus Circle, 42nd St Park, World Trade Center. Penn Station was off bounds then. There were no banners or ID cards then. We'd catch the patrons coming out of the Broadway theaters and make a killing. At times the crowds on the corners got so big the police would make us move because we also drew pickpockets, five card marley dealers and loose joint sellers.
When Mayor Koch was running for 're-election he put the clamps on the streets and ordered the police to impound the musicians instruments and sound systems. We started drawing huge crowds on the corners with coming out of the Broadway Theaters. We were the first victims!! He considered us as a nuisance to the public playing jazz on the street corners. The real nuisance was the NYPD.
One afternoon they took / impounded George's Braithophone, Mark's drums and Billy's bass and my mouse amp, microphone and then wrote us summons. We couldn't stay on the corners for over 30 minutes before the police made us move. There were several other groups playing the streets as well which led the way for today's musicians to be legal. Now folks travel from all over the world to sing on the sidewalks of New York. They have to apply for a permit with the city. The city gives them a permit, Banners and ID cards. Most likely pay taxes!!! Almost every city in America has legal street Musicians! It wasn't easy singing on the streets of NYC in those days.
After the tragic death ofEddie Jefferson May 9, 1979 many musicians welcomed me to New York with open arms.
I began performing with James Moody
Lou Donaldson & George V Johnson Jr 42 years later at Bohemian Caverns
Things were very promising. One year later I was introduced to Pharoah Sanders
by brother Leon Thomas at the Village Vanguard. A few days later I received a phone call from Pharoah asking me if I wanted to hang out on the weekend. When I got to the address it was Power Station Studio.
After watching for awhile about one hour later he asked me if I wanted to sing my lyrics. In one take we recorded John Coltrane's classic "Moments Notice. Lp "Rejoice".
The song featured Bobby Hutcherson, vibes,
John Hicks, piano,
Dr. Art Davis, bass,
Billy Higgins, drums,
Danny Moore, trumpet,
Steve Turre, trombone. The rest is history, its now a classic.
COLTRANE’S classic “Moments Notice” is a complete gas! Sanders like Coltrane, pulls and holds attention with his entrances. Bobby Hutcherson’s and Hicks solo’s are heated and models of vivid imagination. The three put forth some of the very best solo’s in the entire album. The there’s the arresting new talent introduced here on compact disc in debut - GEORGE V JOHNSON JR., whose marvelous lyrics and vocal work are truly auspicous! He sings with James Moody on occasion and is happily remindful of the insistent gift-nest of the late EDDIE JEFFERSON. Johnson’s three stanzars close with ”Relax dig the sounds of Coltrane’s Music. Coltrane fills your heart with love and harmony. Trane played with magic. Listen to the melodies and you will see momently. When you here the message of his song!”. There’s no doubt in my mind that henceforth George V Johnson should and will be sought for his own gift to the music. He sang the song for Sanders at the Village Vanguard, and Sanders “felt that George ought to be heard”.
Thank you, Pharoah Sanders for your spirit of sharing!
Wheeeeee!! What a dynamite track this is~~~~HERBIE WONG!
Everywhere I went all the cats looked out for me. Clifford Jordan,
Tina Pratt - Jazz tap (my jazz mother)
While organizing my files I found a original out of print copy of "IN DEFENSE OF BE-Bop" by Frank B. Foster. No date but printed around 1980. It's a great read. I met Frank Foster during the early 70's at the "Pigfoot" while with John Malachi. The Pigfoot was a jazz club owned by Billl Harris and his wife Fannie. Almost any given night different jazz legends would drop by to visit and sit in with John Malachi.
John was good friends with the Joe Williams and was Count Basie's rehearsal pianist. He was also the pianist and arranger with the Billy Eckstein Orchestra when it had all the killer players like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Fats Navarro, Gene Ammons, Sarah Vaughn, Lucky Thompson, Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey and others. So I had the chance to meet Frank and many great musicians. The last time I saw Frank Foster was in 2009. I interviewed him for two hours over the phone and went as a special guest to see him at the Kennedy Center when he received the BYN Mellon Jazz Living Legend Award. R.I.P. Frank Foster September 23, 1928 - July 26, 2011. The world loves you. Your music will live forever. "Shinning Stockings".
Walter Davis Jr,
Clearance C Sharpe, to name a few.
Jim gave me my first opportunity to write about America's Classical Music "Jazz" in the Jazz Spotlite News and the inspiration to create the Washington DC Jazz Network years later. When I peeped what he was doing I wanted to be just like him. Jim was a old school hustler. In The musicians were the writers for the paper. It was very hip and historical. Everyone were telling their own stories and how things really happened.
His wife Fannie would always be somewhere in the audience. She was a sweetheart. We spoke and hung out together weekly for several years. He always told me we have to and must control our own shit!
Jim was also very instrumental in Charles Tolliver's career by sending him to speak with Jackie McLean for a tryout with his band because he knew Jackie needed a trumpet player. Jackie McLean showed Charles the ropes and recorded some classic albums. With the Jazz Spotlite News Jim Harrison inspired many musicians.
The rest is history....years later Charles Tolliver
and pianist Stanley Cowell would create, and influence the independent record movement with Strata East Records, many years before Prince hit the scene. Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell are living role models for the entire record industry. Most musicians around the world are now a independent record producers, thus proving that artists don't have to be signed to a major label to make an album. It's called controlling your own destiny! If you don't own your masters, the Masters will own you!
Jim Harrison began as a promoter for Jazz Mobile at the beginning in 1964 and retired in 2004. For 40 years he led the promotional ground work long before the internet. You would always know that Jim Harrison had been passing through because his trademark flyers would be in all the Jazz venues around the city each week. No club, jazz school, concert, or festival went untouched...hahaha..
Together we would be at concerts selling the Jazz Spotlite News for $1.00 and passing out posters and flyers keeping jazz fans updated on all coming events. Jazz Spotlite News! Jazz Spotlite News! Get your Jazz Spotlite News!!!
Jazz Mobile Concert at Grants Tomb
James Moody presents George V Johnson Jr
featuring Harold Mabern, Todd Coolman, Eddie Gladen
Moments later Moody would introduce me to the stage with Freedom Jazz Dance and burst into Giant Steps. The crowd would go wild! Oh what memories..
Jazzmobile founded by the late Dr. Billy Taylor presents Free Outdoor Summer Mobile Concerts throughout the 5 boroughs of New York City. It is a multifaceted, outreach organization committed to bringing "America's Classical Music"—Jazz—to the largest possible audience by producing concerts, festivals and special events worldwide.
George V Johnson Jr
CEO - Executive Director - Founder
Washington DC Jazz Network
Jim Harrison influenced the lives of many musicians. He is a lifeblood of the Jazz community and one of the hippest promoters in the history of JAZZ in NYC! His wife Fannie was everyone's Jazz Mother. Love you always~~~George Victor Johnson Jr. www.washingtondcjazznetwork.ning.com
Eddie Jefferson "Father of the Art of Jazz Vocalese"
George V Johnson Jr
Please give to the Network that supports you!
Every amount counts towards maintaining this site!
Please click the Donate button.
We greatly appreciate your support!