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Jef Lee Johnson: It's Been So Long Since I've Seen with My Eyes

By Published: February 1, 2013
So we played, and everybody was being really polite, and I decided not to—and I was playing all over the place and the word I got- you know, I was figuring people were going to say, "never let this guy in the country again" ­ but all those Montreux people were thinking about releasing this as a record. People left crying after the show. The Montreux people were like, "It was the most beautiful thing..." and I was like, " it!."

AAJ: So you took your space and people got into it.

JLJ: I don't know why people were being so polite on stage. I wasn't even in that frame of mind, but if no one was gonna play... I'll play! I think everybody was just tired and some people had to split right after, so maybe that's why. George just ran out to me and said they needed guitar on it and I said, "Yeah, I'll play." Now, that may come out.

AAJ: One of the guys who played on Tutu is one of the few I would lump you in with Jean-Paul Bourelly
Jean-Paul Bourelly
Jean-Paul Bourelly

JLJ: I love Jean-Paul but I'm trying to not be lumped in with anybody. But that's one person I'd love to be..I always liked him anyway

AAJ: Among other things you are the expert killer extensions of Hendrix with the funk, acid ­rock...

JLJ: No, I understand the comparison...

Anyway, Rechelle's thing was another great record that didn't get the push it deserved.

AAJ: What a technical singer she is as well as a beautiful feel singer.

JLJ: Well, yeah... she's all over the place... but when you're trying to do something there are always some people that can't feel it that way

AAJ: She's on a major label, too.

JLJ: But that doesn't mean anything if you have to fight with them all the time. Instead of reveling in something that is wonderful, label people actually get weirded out by it.

AAJ: So, you said you're on Common's new one, too?

JLJ: We just cut some tracks for his new cd in New York.

AAJ: Who are some of the other well-known R&B artists you've recorded with?

JLJ: Erykah, this cat J-Dee, I did George Duke's record last year...that's supposed to be out soon. Rechelle's getting ready to do a new record.

AAJ: Do you tour with these people?

JLJ: I did gigs with George and Rechelle, and D. I did Letterman with Erykah, which was pretty hilarious.

AAJ: Did you tour with James Carter?

JLJ: Yeah, I did. I did dates with him about two years ago in Europe.

AAJ: You did some writing for that as well.

JLJ: That's an old song from a Shannon record called "Terminal B" and James wanted to do it again. I'm on at least five of the Ronald Shannon Jackson records. In fact they just released a "live in Poland" thing.

AAJ: So, getting back to Hype Factory, are you doing everything on it?

JLJ: Well, my wife Trish is on there on sax and accordion- and a pedal steel god named Kurt Johnston. He's ridiculous. He's the most bizarre pedal-steel guy I've ever heard and that's not his main axe. He likes playing guitar and piano but ...I think he actually played on BonJovi's last record. He has his own band- the Johnston brothers. I was an honorary Johnston brother one night. Ivana Taylor and Charlene Hollaway are singing on there as well. If I could ever get equipment that works and finish this new record Charlene's going to be singing on that, too. Charlene has sung with everybody. She's Philly's everywoman. She and her sister Paula and Annette Hardaman do pretty much every session that's done here. Ivana has a group that does traditional Tex-Mex music. My record has mostly vocal tunes and a couple of instrumentals. All the tunes have extended instrumental sections.

AAJ: Are all the tunes "inside" tunes? I mean there are no avant-type, Rob Reddy type tunes?

JLJ: Yeah. It's a little bit more accessible to people who are not ready to do the open groove thing. Although there are always sounds that are going to...

AAJ: Make your ears perk up?

JLJ: I mean that's what I want to do. I want to incorporate that on top of a more groove-oriented thing, for now. I mean, some things are a little extended or unorthodox, but that depends who you are, you know.

AAJ: You play all the bass, too?

JLJ: Yes.

AAJ: Some killer lines and concepts on there for the bass lovers.

JLJ: Thank you. Yeah, half of the record is some older material because I am sick of not being able to...I have to put these records out myself- I don't have the money- and stuff just sits around here, so what's the point? The music is to be heard, not just me sitting around and improving upon what's been done. You are supposed to write...then write some more.

AAJ: You gotta let go of it at some point.

JLJ: Exactly. It's like having paintings hanging in the house. People have to see them. Or in my case, hear them.

AAJ: So, this is your own, indie thing?

JLJ: Yeah.

AAJ: With help from this Dreambox cat?

JLJ: No! (laughs) I mean well, yeah. Not financial help. I used to play in Reverie with Jim Miller
Jim Miller
Jim Miller
, who is Dreambox.

AAJ: Oh, that band with Gerald Veasley?

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Download jazz mp3 “This is This” by Jef Lee Johnson