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.
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.