"When Johnson spins an interlude casually across the room, it's done with tender loving care."
Jim Santella, L.A. Jazz Scene
Award winning saxophonist Chuck Johnson has been a band leader and performer for 37+ years. His distinctive saxophone voice was established by fusing the hard bop East Coast aesthetic with his unique West Coast musical experiences. Recognized for bringing back the soul that is missing in much of today's mainstream material, his vast breadth of knowledge derives from a diversity of experiences throughtout the length of his career as a saxophonist and band leader. Johnson strives to introduce, share and uplift listeners with his joy through a rich and vast repertoire that is a melting pot of straight-ahead jazz, Afro-Cuban, bebop, swing, Latin, bossa nova, blues, and funk. Fluent performing on all the saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone) and flute, Johnson's inspiration came by saxophonists that possessed a huge sonorous sound like Dexter Gordon, Stanley Turrentine, Grover Washington, Jr., and Cannonball Adderley.
"I love introducing and sharing our great American art form with others. That is at the core of what keeps me motivated to put this great music in front of a listening audience."
Johnson has had the privilege of appearing in concert with such artists as the Temptations, the Four Tops, Buddy Collette, Billy Higgins, Bloodstone, Art Hillery, John Guerin, Francisco Aguabella, Barbara Morrison, John Stephens Big Band, Albert "Tootie" Heath, Putter Smith, Gerryck King, Bobby Womack, Roy McCurdy, Kenny Burrell, Chester Whitmore's Opus One Big Band, Carl Burnett, James Leary, Obba Babatunde, Lorca Hart, Soup's Ready, Trevor Ware, Kenny Elliott, Edwin Livingston, Oakdale Saxophone Quartet, Bobby D and The Mix, Raymond Pounds, Nolan Shaheed and Marshall Hawkins.
Chuck's ensemble the CJS Quintet was crowned Mainstream Jazz Artist of the Year in 2002 at the Long Beach Jazz Search Competition. Three years later during competition at the 2005 Temecula Valley International Jazz Festival the CJS Quintet was awarded the inaugural Chuck Niles Jazz Music Award.
Two independently self-produced CDs, Let's PLAY! (2006), and An Affair of the Art (2003), have received accolades from jazz critics and fans alike.
Chuck is a native of Owensboro, Kentucky and began his formal musical education at the age of 6 on piano, although his real interest at the time was drums. His father played guitar, his mother piano, organ and ukulele, his older brother trumpet, and his oldest brother Reggie bass. Reggie was a well-respected jazz bassist (Art Blakey, Archie Shepp, Kenny Burrell, Clark Terry, Mingus Dynasty Band). Chuck was surrounded by music early in his life--but he did not feel compelled to become a musician until years later. Following high school graduation Chuck entered the University of Evansville as an electrical engineering major and a piano minor. In 1976 he consulted for a change in majors and the following year was reluctantly accepted (since beginning students at this age seldom maintain a commitment to their instrument) as a saxophone major in the Music Management degree program. This served as the catalyst for many other accomplishments and endeavors, including subsequently being named Sinfonian of the Year of Phi Mu Alpha Professional Music Fraternity. Thus, Chuck's initiation to the saxophone at the University of Evansville launched what would become not only his primary passion in life, but a flourishing career. Evansville holds another important distinction as Chuck was instrumental in reinstituting the jazz format at radio station WUEV-FM, after having refined and expanded programing parameters to reflect a broader and more eclectic variety of popular music, while filling an obvious void of African American jazz forms. His agenda included the objective of introducing both popular and obscure jazz to a listening audience hungry and receptive to his innovative approach.
His education and expertise served him well when he was brought on board the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, where he initiated the first student chapter of their award winning National Association for Jazz Education (NAJE) now known as the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE). It was here he continued introducing African American music to new audiences as a producer.
Since his days at Interlochen, Chuck furthered his horizons by completing the Professional Instrumental Program at the Dick Grove School Of Music (DGSM) in Los Angeles. It was at DGSM in 1984 that Johnson met woodwind specialist, Phil Sobel (NBC Staff Orchestra, Frank Sinatra, West Coast Saxophone Quartet). That meeting would change the trajectory of his musicianship and entire concept of saxophone sound production and performance. Sobel was an incredibly influential teacher, mentor, and friend for Johnson until his passing in 2008.
In addition to Sobel, Chuck has studied with Dr. Edwin Lacy (University of Evansville), Lanny Morgan (Supersax, Terry Gibbs, Bob Florence), Jon Nagourney, Gilbert Castellanos, Rob Thorsen, Tyler Kreutel, Holly Hoffman, Marshall Hawkins and Bob Boss.
Johnson has been active with the Thelonius Monk Institute for Jazz and the International Association of Jazz Appreciation. He has served on he Board of Directors of the Jazz Heritage Foundation, the National Alumni Board for Interlochen Center for the Arts, and the Alumni Board of the Los Angeles Chapter for Interlochen Center for the Arts.