Sunday, June 5, 2011

JJ Johnson

Tenor slide trombone 3D model
From 1990-91 at Oberlin I was JJ Johnson's assistant.  I was the Wendell Logan's assistant at the time and JJ had been hired as some sort of guest artist and would come in 4 times per year for three days or so.  I was in charge of picking him up at the airport and taking him everywhere.

Some observations:

  • He was just about the nicest guy ever.  Almost too nice.  Master classes involved him saying many positive comments.  He was always helpful.  
  • I remember he was working on a conical trombone.  A mix of euphonium and trombone.  He played this horn on his recordings after 1991.  It was a neat horn.  The guy from Yamaha would come out, he would play it and then tell them a few things.  A few months later they would bring him the next version.
  • About 5 years later we saw him with James Moody at the Blue Note.  I went upstairs later to say hi, thinking he wouldn't remember me.  He immediately saw me and told me to sit down for awhile.  "Try this horn out for me, Brandt, tell me what you think".  
  • He practiced a lot.  With a silent mute in the hotel room.
  • He didn't wear a seat belt.