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

By Published: February 1, 2013
JLJ: I'd like to think you'd get something out of all of them, but I must say I was very impressed by Rechelle's record, "Individuality," and the "News From the Jungle" record stands out. Seriously, if I heard Rechelle's record, and I hadn't played on it, it would still be a recording that I'd have to have. Like "Music of My Mind" or something, or "Extensions of a Man" by Donnie Hathaway. Even if I don't listen to them for two years, in two and a half years I am going to dig 'em out and get another lesson. Rechelle's record is one of those records.

"News from the Jungle" is- there is some of the most bizarre guitar on there- I don't think I have ever heard anything like it- which is weird to say, too cause I played it (laughs). In a musical way, not a super- guitar- player kind of way which-I can't stand that. It's getting kind of tired now. Dead tired actually.

AAJ: Lately, I've enjoyed those Rob Reddy records, "Quttah" and the "Songs You Can Trust."

JLJ: I just remember leaving those sessions thinking, "Well, I hope that's gonna be ok." Later, I knew it was fine. I'm so into the way he writes and plays it's not ever going to be bad. But that's another thing, too.That should be a day at the office for any kind of musician with any kind of pride in workmanship. Like the Miles tribute, or the trio gig we just did in Paris. People were freaking out and it was nice. Don't get me wrong but all gigs should start on that level. As bad as they should be is amazing. The point of the music is to lift up and be therapeutic. If it's really amazing people should be lifted out of the building.

AAJ: Not everybody is operating at your level of consistency, trust me.

JLJ: That's not good. It should be the norm. But that plays into what I said earlier. It's about celebrity now and whose gig you are doing. I see it without even being on the gig. It's like the drug dealer analogy. If a 30 year old tells a 16 year old not to sell drugs, but then the kid is making six figures and driving a BMW, how convincing can you be? If someone's doing a lame gig and making ten grand a week, there is no point. We need the money to live, but it's about what you want it to be about. At this point I want to play some music, that's all. I mean at my age and like, my situation-I don't really have anything now-so if I have the opportunity I am going to play.

AAJ: What do you mean you don't have anything?

JLJ: I mean my wife. That was my life, so.

AAJ: I am sorry. Again, man you guys must have had a wonderful relationship, just the way you're talking. She just keeps coming up.

JLJ: Yeah, it was beyond reality. I've never seen two people like that before-my parents even. We were a Disney movie. It was just one of them things. "I wonder if two people could ever be that much in love?" Yeah, we were.

AAJ: People that have the best thing- it's taken away from them- and people who have like the workaday relationships just stay stuck in them forever.

JLJ: Yeah, but y'know, that' life. I can't get to like a spiritual, metaphysical level on it because if I do, then ...If I think of it like, well, it wasn't a selective thing, it's a little bit easier to deal with than if there was some reason behind it. If there was a reason behind it I'm really going to be upset....but, I'm too much of a coward to jump in front of a train or anything. With my luck I'd end up being a quadriplegic or something.

AAJ: Jesus, Jef.

JLJ: No...I'm just gonna take it out on the music.

AAJ: I happened to mention your thing to a great bassist who you referred to earlier and he, very surprisingly, had his own story to tell. I just felt horrible.

JLJ: Yeah, we're in an ugly club together. When I was making that record with George, I really wanted to call Wayne (Shorter). There's a few of us. It's not a "time heals" situation. It's a "this is your life from now on, deal with it." So I'm trying to drown out the voices in my head with some other voices, basically. We were married seven years. I knew her a lot longer actually, but we never talked to each other. We were afraid of each other but...let's talk about something else.

AAJ: Ok. Let's hype "Hype Factory," or are we done with that?

JLJ: Probably not. I'm preoccupied with trying to get this other thing done which is probably not good, because I'm always immediately on to the next thing. I have one that is actually done that is a "ghost" project- it will not be released under my name. Then there's a new solo cd which is basically done except for a few tracks and the mixing.

AAJ: Are these both single discs?

JLJ: Yeah

AAJ: Like an hour apiece?

JLJ: I have no idea and knowing me ...I wanted to do a series of cds and Jim said it was easier to release a double cd than two in a row, so that's why at the last second "Hype" became a double. And now 've been running into all these mixing problems.

AAJ: Maybe somebody should do that for you and you should concentrate on all the art that's pouring out of you.

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