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Howard Johnson Celebrates His 75th

Jazzed Magazine • News • January 27, 2017

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Howard Johnson takes a turn in the spotlight with a new release, Testimony, recorded with his 10-piece tuba choir, Gravity.

Testimony includes eight tunes ranging from soulful to funky to bluesy to cookers. Gravity’s take on Johnson’s  originals as well as compositions by McCoy Tyner, Carol King, and others, testifies to the range and versatility of the tuba.

In addition to Johnson on tuba, pennywhistle, and baritone sax, Testimony includes:

Dave Bargeron (tuba), a self-described “proud charter member of Gravity since 1968.” He has played with Blood, Sweat and Tears, big bands led by Clark Terry, Gil Evans, George Russell, George Gruntz, and Jaco Pastorius, and countless smaller ensembles. 

Velvet Brown (tuba), the Penn State professor of tuba and euphonium, is equally at home with the St. Louis Symphony, the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra, or the San Francisco Women’s Philharmonic Orchestra.

Joseph Daley (tuba) is the producer of Testimony and a mainstay of New York’s adventurous music scene, having played with the likes of Sam Rivers, Carla Bley, Gil Evans, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, and Hazmat Modine.

Carlton Holmes (keyboards) is a top pick of icons like Charli Persip, Cindy Blackman-Santana, Michael Carvin, Freddie Hubbard, Stevie Wonder, and many others.

Nedra Johnson (tuba, vocal) has one of the most powerful and compelling voices you’re likely to hear. Whether playing jazz, womyn’s music, funk, or R&B, she’s known for bringing festival crowds to their feet.

Earl McIntyre (tuba) is a renowned educator, Brooklyn Philharmonic guest conductor. An in-demand bass trombonist as well, he is an alumnus of bands fronted by Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor, Lester Bowie, McCoy Tyner, and others.

Melissa Slocum (bass) is an in-demand veteran of stints with Art Blakey, Leon Thomas, Hank Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Melba Liston. She also shines in settings from symphony to Broadway to baroque.

Bob Stewart (tuba) has worked with the mainstream (Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Wynton Marsalis), the avant-garde (Muhal Richard Abrams, Henry Threadgill,  Arthur Blythe), and the hit makers (Chaka Khan, Dap Kings, Aretha Franklin).

Buddy Williams (drummer) has a list of credits encompassing Valerie Simpson, Sonny Sharrock, Jack McDuff, Jennifer Holiday, Michael Jackson, Herbie Mann, Lena Horne, and David Sanborn.

Howard Johnson has made it his life’s work to “reveal the range and versatility of the tuba in all its splendor” to a larger audience. With its vibrant spirit and swing, Testimony makes a strong case for repeated listening.

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