Johnson, Budd (Albert J.)

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Johnson, Budd (Albert J.)

Johnson, Budd (Albert J.), jazz tenor and soprano saxophonist, clarinetist, arranger; b. Dallas, Tex., Dec. 14, 1910; d. Kansas City, Mo., Oct. 20, 1984. Brother of Keg Johnson . A glorious, impassioned player capable of great lyricism, he was never properly acknowledged as one of the masters of his generation. He was remarkably open to new ideas and moved smoothly from Armstrong’s band to Dizzy Gillespie’s, and from the influence of Hawkins around 1930 to that of Lester Young in the late 1930s.

Given his first music lessons by his father, who played cornet and organ; he later studied with Booker Pittman’s mother, Mrs. Portia Pittman (daughter of Booker T. Washington). He originally played piano, then gigged on drums and did a brief spell with a touring show. Changingto tenor sax, he then played with local bands. From 1927-32, he played with a variety ofbands locally, in Tex., and finally, in Kansas City (c. 1930). He moved to Chicago in 1932 where he did spells with various bands. He then played with Louis Armstrong until Armstrong disbanded in July 1933. Between 1934-42, he played off and on with Earl Hines, taking short breaks to work with other leaders. Eventually he became music director of Hines’s band in 1938. He was briefly with Don Redman in spring 1943, and then made a U.S.O. tour with Al Sears’s Band. In February 1944 he joined Dizzy Gillespie at the Onyx Club, N.Y From the mid-1940s he did several spells with Dizzy Gillespie, and also led his own band in N.Y.

Johnson pioneered the early days of bop by organizing (and arranging for) several important small groups. He acted as musical director for Billy Eckstine’s Orch., also arranging for Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Boyd Raeburn, and others. From the late 1940s he was a prolific freelancer working with a number of bands as a musician or arranger. In the early 1950s he regularlyled his own small groups, worked as musical director for Atlantic Records, organized his own publishing company, and continued freelance playing and arranging.

He became part of the rock revolution with his arrangment and production of several records.He also published songs and helped Alan Freed by putting together huge bands for his shows. From the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s he toured with a variety of bands, including Benny Goodman (1956-57; tour in Asia), Quincy Jones (1960), Count Basie (1961 to early1962), and Earl Hines (1965; summer 1966; 1967-69; including various European tours).

He left Earl Hines in the summer of 1969 and formed JPJ Quartet (with Bill Pemberton, drummer Oliver Jackson, and pianist Dill Jones). JPJ presented educational concerts through the early 1970s. From the 1970s through his death, he remained active on the festival circuit and as an educator.

Discography

Rock ’n’ Roll Stage Show (1954); Blues a La Mode (1958); And the Four Brass Giants (1960); Let’s Swing (1960); French Cookin (1963); Off the Wall (1964); Ya Ya (1964); Mr. Bechet (197’4); In Memory of a Very Dear Friend (1978); The Ole Dude and the Fundance Kid (1984).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz /Lewis Porter

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Johnson, Budd (Albert J.)

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