It's About Time
Perhaps no title is more fitting than IT'S ABOUT TIME for seasoned jazz saxophonist Leo Johnson's debut album. After all, it is a phrase that he heard often from people in response to news of it's pending release. With years of experience performing alongside such jazz notables as Jimmy McGriff, Chico Mendoza, Jimmy Witherspoon, Johnny Hammond, David "Fathead" Newman, Jack McDuff, and Rhoda Scott, Johnson continues to hone his craft as a jazz musician/composer, astonishing listeners with his unique lyricism and ingenious creativity. However, IT'S ABOUT TIME is in essence about time. Leo's album features all original tunes of reminiscence composed in honor of people, places, and messages most cherished by him. "The Inwood Affair" was written during his ten-year residency in Manhattan. "I was walking around, reminiscing about what was going on in my life at that time, and this tune came into my head," Johnson recalls of the seductive tune. Similarly, "Le Saint Germain" is named after a Parisian club where he performed and recorded with the Rhoda Scott Trio in 1974. The serene tune "Lela's Song" memorializes his mother, a devout woman of the church, while "JJ's Theme" is a jaunty twelve-bar blues written for his father, the late John Johnson. "Candy Boy" honors Johnson's longtime colleague, drummer Jesse Hahmeen. Listeners will especially enjoy the romantic ballad "For the Last Time" with lyrics of love and devotion penned by Johnson himself. -----Baritone Bobby Porter's vocal style brings to mind past crooners Billy Eckstine and Johnny Hartman. The true showstopper is Johnson's fiery improvisation in the instrumental version of the same song that concludes the album. Never has there been a musician more capable of capturing an aural snapshot of nostalgia so vividly and sharing it with the listener in a manner that becomes truly timeless. - April Grier ____ GEORGE CALDWELL, Piano (Page 3 & 4 of liner notes) George Caldwell hails from Clarksdale, Mississippi. He has shared the bandstand with many great artists, including Dizzy Gillespie, Cab Calloway, Frank Wess, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Roy Hargrove, Kenny Garrett, and Wynton Marsalis. THADDEUS EXPOSE, Bass A native of New Orleans, Thaddeus Expose has recorded and toured with notable musicians such as Marcus Roberts, Wycliffe Gordon and Winard Harper. He has performed on Marcus Roberts' recordings "Portrait in Blue," "Cole After Midnight" and "Blues for the New Millennium." STEVE PHILLIPS, Drums Steve Phillips, a native of Newark, New Jersey, quotes his influences as Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones and Tony Williams. Phillips left Newark in 1979. He lived in France for 18 years and taught drums in Beirut for seven years before returning to Newark. BOBBY PORTER, Vocal A former resident of East Orange, Bobby Porter has performed in the Newark area with Alan Jackson's big band, and also worked with drummer Eddie Gladden, pianist Richie McCrae, trumpeter Hank White, drummer Benny Jackson, tenor saxophonist Connie Lester, and multi-reedman Joe Thomas. LEO JOHNSON, Tenor Saxophone Every once and awhile, there emerges upon the jazz scene, a person who quietly and unobtrusively affects the art. Usually a musicians' musician, this person's greatness reaches the public through the work of other musicians upon whom he has had a profound influence. Based upon the homage and respect paid to this individual by his fellow musicians, the public finally demands that the unsung artist be heard and recognized. Such a personage is tenor saxophonist Leo Johnson. Born in Daytona Beach, Florida on October 19, 1939, Leo's interest in mastering his instrument and advancing his art led him to Newark, New Jersey where he took up residence in 1957. Not content to merely be just another horn player on the Newark jazz scene, Leo decided to hone his skills in a more diverse milieu and enlisted in the United States Air Force as a bandsman. The Air Force provided Leo with an opportunity to develop his musical talents. Not only were there other musicians to exchange ideas with, but it also provided him with the opportunity to develop his obvious talent for composing and arranging. Leo's compositions and arrangements delighted audiences throughout Europe. After his stint in the Air Force, Leo returned to the Newark jazz scene and continued to perform and record with other notable musicians including organist Jack McDuff. After playing and traveling for a few years with McDuff's band, Leo focused his talents within the Newark area. He led his own ensembles through the poignant compositions and arrangements he authored. With an ear open to new talent, Leo has helped to develop young artists who are prominent in today's jazz scene. Victor Jones, Terrance Blanchard, Andy McCloud, Alan Watson, Michael Clark, Ralph Peterson, the Harper Brothers, the late Woody Shaw and the late David Eubanks are some of the musicians who have participated and developed their talents with the milieu of Leo's ensemble. He received three individual proclamations from Mayors Kenneth Gibson and Sharpe James in recognition of his contribution to the arts in Newark, and a fourth as one of the "Jazz Elders" in Newark. Mr. Johnson was featured in the Star-Ledger as one of seventy five of the "Greatest Jazz Musicians from New Jersey". -Reginald Petty Compositions and lyrics by Leo Johnson Recorded March 19, 2006 at Kobe Studios by Greg Bufford, West Orange, NJ Mastered at Alleycat Studio by John Lee, South Orange, NJ Copyright Leo Johnson email address: firstname.lastname@example.org DEDICATION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This recording is dedicated to the Johnson and Rogers Family. Thanks to George, Steve and Thaddeus for their strong support and musicianship as the rhythm section and Bobby Porter for his vocal rendition of "For the Last Time." Thanks to Ed Berger, April Grier, Reginald Petty and Grace Weng for their assistance in making this project a reality. A special thanks to Sherrie Thaler for her undaunted effort to complete this project. Photography by Ed Berger Liner Notes by April Grier and Reggie Petty LEJOHN RECORDS.