Jef Lee Johnson: It's Been So Long Since I've Seen with My Eyes
AAJ: Yeah, Hilarie Grey really packed it all into about five or six sentences, there.
JLJ: Yeah, it scared me man. Those are some big words to live up to.
AAJ: I just think more people should know about you and what you're doing. I mean some people know who you are and don't even know that you have solo cds out there.
JLJ: People come up and ask at gigs you know. But that's part of the herd thing too. Like people asking if I have a website. Hey, if you can go to Amazon and type in my name, then I don't need a website to sell records. It's another programming thing. It's not their fault. That's just the information people are fed and come to expect.
It's like the teenagers and the emotional thing we were talking about. They're parents don't want to emote. They want to sit in their cubicle and listen to some soft jazz in the background so they don't have to think. I have heard it said over and over again, because if people start thinking, they may not be following.
AAJ: Yeah man, plus if they listen to you they won't be getting any work done (laughs)! I literally could not listen to your music and write about something else, for instance.
JLJ: Right, you wouldn't be at the computer. You know that. They don't. They think music is supposed to be in the background while they work. They're not thinking at all that music is something that is supposed to go in your body as Miles used to say. They're not thinking like that but it's not their fault.
AAJ: Did Miles say that?
JLJ: He says that, yeah, He used to say, like, "I didn't like that 'cause it didn't go in my body." That's like an old, old, old church type saying. That's what music does..it fills you up or lifts you up. I'm from a church family so I used to hear all that. That's just his stamp on that.
That's where I started playing, bass, in church with my mom. She played piano or organ and I had to play because my grandfather built the church! I played piano or organ too. My father was the superintendent of Sunday school and my uncles were the pastors. I had to be there, it wasn't a matter of, "Are you going to church?"
AAJ: Was that in Philly?
JLJ: Right near where I live now as a matter of fact. In Germantown. Providence Baptist Church, 87 East Haynes Street. I had to be there every day, not like Sunday. Fold the programs, help the ladies in the kitchen. It wasn't a thing to me. It was just someplace I had to be. I thought every kid had to be at someplace like that. I was just messing around with a guitar and my mother said, "Well you're playing bass next week in church." I didn't have a bass. She just told me who to borrow one from!
AAJ: Those gospel bands you see on TV have some happening bass players.
JLJ: This was not a band. It was my mom... and me! We were the band! It wasn't even like, "Do you know this tune?" It was, "Follow me." That kind of hardcore thing. Later, when I was playing with Eddie Green at Carter's up on Staten and Washington Lane or whatever it came in handy when they just started playing. "Do you know this tune? No? You better know it by the time we get to 4!" So you learn a lot of stuff on the gig you might not learn in your theory class or whatever, but it all works together if you don't lose your mind.
AAJ: Are you a big ear player? Or do you know a lot of theory, too?