Ode to Jef Lee Johnson: The Promise of Lovolution

Charles Blass By

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We are forever touched and inspired by your sonic magic. Your beautiful being will always be treasured. —Venissa Santi

Jef was indeed a master, a mentor, and blessing to know who has left an everlasting imprint. There are many sides of him the world has yet to know and hear. Although he had played for everyone, he never ever cared about anything but the music. His bright smile and honest perspective led us to many conversations about how to navigate through the hype of different popular music opportunities, while still maintaining integrity and musicianship. At the end of the day, for Jef it was all about honesty and authenticity. —Crystal Torres

It is truly a cloudy day as guitarist Jef Lee Johnson has passed.— Bruce Mack

Having an extremely difficult time processing the steady departures of God's Best Work as part of 'God's Plan.' I don't know if I can believe in anything arbitrarily that cuts angels down in their prime while leaving evil and mediocrity to fester unchecked. Always remember, do whatever you do at FULL SPEED because we don't all make the finish line. ...BIG shoes to fill... —Darrell McNeill

The only possible lesson, the only possible message is to love each other, care for each other, appreciate each other while we can. All we have is now. —Brian Cullman

What a great musician and very humble guy. It sucks that most of us are "self employed" so we don't have health care. And people wonder why musicians pass on at an early age. Me, him, Trevor [Clark], and Nate Adderley got the Aretha gig from the NY audition at SIR in 88. I didn't know how great he was till I left the rehearsal room on a break, and he stayed-playing-and blew me away. —Atticus Finch

One of the great talents of his generation, carried death inside him since his wife was taken in a car accident... I hope you get to see her again Jef, and finally put your sorrow to rest! —Jacques Schwarz-Bart

Here's a sleep dream I had... we're riding in a car, someone is driving, I'm in the front passenger seat, Jef and another guy are in the back seat. This guy in the back with Jef is talking all kinda shit about intervals and musical structures, the feeling was not that the cat was truly inspired as much as he was trying to impress Jef. Well Jef is looking at me with this satirical look on his face trying to be cool wit dude, dude is goin on and on, and finally Jef interjects... "Man it's really just about the CRY TONE system..." Well dude was so busy rappin when Jeff spoke dude was somewhat startled, paused for a second and continued rappin... "Oh yea the tri-tone system bla bla bla," Jeff interjects again..."No! The CRY TONE system!..." Dude is like... "Yea root flatted 5th bla bla bla" Jeff just looked out the window with this twisted look on his face. That was some funny shit, that look on Jef's face. The next day I called Jef and told him about the dream and thanked him for turning me on to the CRY TONE system. Oddly enough this was right before his wife's sudden death. I guess the Cry Tone System will take its place in the archives with all the cats. —Rick Iannacone

He is so lyrical it hurts!!!!!!!! A humbled gentleman, with chops so intense he didn't have to brag. He had a universal talent... to share with everyone! —Andre Lassalle

Before Jef joined my band he played for my brother's Punk Funk Rock band Jimi Ernesto and the Absolute Waist Band. That was a crazy band. I heard Jef and was like wow, where did you find this guy. They did a version of Peter Gunn that was off the chain.

I think that some of Jef's first major recordings were at Philly International Records. I was the house bassist there for a time and would see Jef in sessions with Leon Huff. Huff love him some Jef Lee Johnson. Next I remember Jef got the gig with Dave Letterman's band on TV then McCoy Tyner and the rest is history.

Jef played in my band the Elevators for a few years, so did his wife Trish. We also played in a funk swing band the Big Push. We both loved boots and would hook up to go boot shopping. Once he found a pair of electric green iguana cowboy boots and rushed to pick me up to go by them. He said they were meant for me. They were some hot boots! He could always play anything he wanted to, no hesitation just play it. Jef was Philly's Monk. Unique, complex and full of life. Trish was the love of his life. They were a beautiful couple. After Trish was killed in a horrible car accident, Jef slipped into a very dark blue cave. There was no light there. We kinda lost touch for a couple years. I ran into him last year in LA and was so happy to see the light in his eyes. He had come out that cave and had the most beautiful smile on his face. We had a great hang and I thank God that he found that happy place in his life. —Steve Green



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