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Take Five with Max Johnson


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Meet Max Johnson:

Max Johnson is a New York-born bassist, composer, and bandleader best known for his work in New York's free jazz and bluegrass scenes. He has played with numerous artists including Anthony Braxton, Candido Camero, Henry Grimes, Perry Robinson, Vernon Reid, William Parker, and countless others.



Teachers and/or influences?

Henry Grimes, Jimmy Garrison, Mark Dresser, Mark Helias, Trevor Dunn, Reggie Workman, Anthony Braxton, Jimmy Giuffre./

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

It was more of a gradual motion, where music changed from a hobby to something that I enjoyed more than anything else. Somewhere in the fifteen-sixteen age. When I got to college is when I really bit down on it as the only important thing in my life.

Your sound and approach to music:

Is to inject as much of myself into the music while respectfully playing the style I'm performing in. Also, using your ability to coax as many different sounds as possible out of the instrument I play. I also like to play really damn loud.<

Your teaching approach:

To use each person's likes and dislikes to show them the basics and really lay the groundwork to do whatever you want to do.

Your dream band:

There are so many, but one that I've always thought about was a trio with Bill Frisell and Gerry Hemingway, where we play old-time fiddle tunes and gospel numbers. That would be too much fun.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

When at Amiri Baracka's 75th birthday, after being flung nervously onto the stage by the guy who was running the acts, Danny Glover came up and introduced himself to me and said "I love your work." That was odd.

Favorite venue:

Le Poisson Rouge. It sounds so fantastic on the stage and it's just such a wonderful place to play. Cornelia Street Cafe is also wonderful, and I have alot of love for the Stone as well.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

I don't know, but the first one I heard was Charles Mingus, Ah Um. Changed how I think.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

A big pair of ears and a loud bass.

Did you know...

That I often wish I was a clarinetist.

CDs you are listening to now:

Ron Anderson, Secret Curve; Senator Robert Byrd, Mountain Fiddler; Mark Dresser, Guts; Jimmie Rodgers, Classic Sides 1927-1928; Edgar Meyer, Bach Cello Suites 1, 2 & 5

Desert Island picks:

Gram Parsons, G.P.; Henry Grimes, The Call; Pharoah Sanders, Karma; The Louvin Brothers, Tragic Songs of Life; King Crimson, Larks Tongues in Aspic.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

There's always great music being made, and today there's still more than one person could even begin to deal with.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

A cross-pollination between different fans of different musics.

What is in the near future?

The recording of my debut album, curating music at the University of the Streets, and more gigs and recordings with all of the groups I've been playing with.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Bluegrass Musician (which some would argue I am).

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Max Johnson


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