Jazz tubist and saxophonist Howard Johnson died on January 11 in New York City.
He was a true reference in American jazz. Howard Johnson also played bass clarinet, bugle, trumpet, and many other reed instruments. He was also known as a singer, an exercise he occasionally practiced.
Born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1941, he learned the baritone saxophone from 1954 on his own. A year later, he decided to study tuba as well. In 1963, he moved to New York to play music.
While the tuba is not used in jazz, except in a few groups in New Orleans, Charles Mingus hired him in 1964. He then collaborated as saxophonist or tubist with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Hank Mobley, or Archie Shepp.
In 1966, he met Gil Evans with whom he will work until 1988. He also worked at length with the Swiss multi-instrumentalist and composer George Gruntz as well as with the saxophonist Hank Crawford.
From the 70s, he worked with many artists including Miles Davis, on the album Miles And Quincy Live at Montreux, the legendary bassist Jaco Pastorius, or the bluesman Muddy Waters.
During the 90s, Howard Johnson led the Gravity tuba ensemble with which he released three albums on Verve Records, including The First Arrival, a tribute to Pharoah Sanders, saxophonist from John Coltrane.
Very open musically, Howard Johnson had collaborated with Marvin gaye. He had been the arranger for the brass section of the bluesman Taj Mahal, sure The Real Thing, live album released in 1971. He had also worked several times with the Canadian rock group The Band, notably on the album The Last Waltz, as well as with John Lennon for albums Walls and Bridges and Double Fantasy.
Howard Johnson died on January 11 in New York City. He was 79 years old.