Self-taught and self-tuned, guitarist/photographer Richard Leo Johnson takes listeners on a thirteen-part voyage on his Fingertip Ship. Though he pays tribute to Jazz legends Tony Bennett, Stephane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt and Jaco Pastorius and explores the feelings of Pink Floyd and The Who, Johnson’s technique, style and delivery are unlike any other performer. Often hitting the frets without knowing exactly what "key" he may be in (if any), Johnson’s intuitive and idiosyncratic approach ranges from the delicate and spare to the blindingly frenetic.
Raised in the heart of America, Johnson explores classic and contemporary domestic moods as well as sounds of lands and times far distant, from the traditional Eastern koto-esque minors of "Empitsu No Uta" to the acoustically futuristic "Prometheus Meets The Digital Age." Though Johnson himself once presumed recordings of Leo Kotke and John McLaughlin to be the offerings of one person, it is hard to imagine in Johnson’s own case how ten fingers could produce so many intricate layers of sound. Despite a few selections revealing the impromptu nature of Johnson’s composition through occasional stutter and repetition, Johnson’s Ship sails on rather smoothly for most of the voyage.
Track Listing: 1. Hearts of Palm
3. Tony Bennett
4. Mother's Day
5. Thirteen Year Emergence Suite: Bluefield
6. Thirteen Year Emergence Suite: Get Funked
7. Thirteen Year Emergence Suite: Cicada
8. Thirteen Year Emergence Suite: The Filing Song
9. Thirteen Year Emergence Suite: Jaco Morocco
10. Thirteen Year Emergence Suite: Synthetic Blues
11. Thirteen Year Emergence Suite: Heart of the Beast
12. Thirteen Year Emergence Suite: Prometheus Meets the Digital Age
13. Thirteen Year Emergence Suite: Empitsu No Uta
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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