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Take Five with Melvin Johnson


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Meet Melvin Johnson

Houston, TX pianist/composer Melvin Johnson will offer a gift to the world with his debut album, Little Red Wagon (Sincerely Yours Music, 2023), overflowing with musical narratives on family love and the life lessons they provide. Johnson, who once thought of himself as only a live performer, found a unique hunger for recording and production during COVID lockdown. Mixed with exposure in multiple genres and styles, his education and training as a classical pianist forged a fluid and diverse composer and producer whose time has finally come! Little Red Wagon is an invitation into the narratives that have created who Melvin is today, immersing you through sound and story... overflowing with origins profound and far-reaching.


When I am Acoustic, Steinway and Sons or Yamaha Concert Grands; When I am Electronic, Yamaha Montage 7 and Motif XS8 When I am Synthetic, Again Yamaha Montage 7 and Behringer Poly D
When I am Midi, My MacBook Pro knows NO bounds! Logic Pro X and Acoustic Samples C7 Grand/B-5 organ and Mark79 are my go-tos!

Teachers and/or influences?

Carol Morgan at San Jacinto College North (Julliard)
Lucian Zidaru at Texas Southern University (LSU)
Jane Perkyns at Texas Southern University (Julliard)

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

I knew I wanted to be a musician when I played my first drum solo at church at the age of about 6. I played and cried until I couldn't anymore! Pure joy!

Your sound and approach to music.

I approach every opportunity as if it were my last. I want to make sure that I use the right feeling, emotion and creativity to express what I feel in the moment.

Your teaching approach

Music is life. All things are relative and connected, you just need the right eyes, ears and heart so that you intentions are pure and your expression is true. Sometimes we make things difficult because we over-theorize. The theory or why is the "egg," and the music is the "chicken!" Let the chicken run wild and explore, then afterwards you can play with the eggs!

Your dream band

I'm already in it. My guys in the Electro-Akoustic and Sincerely Yours Band are first-class musicians and family. We create and dig all the way into the music!

Road story: Your best or worst experience

I travelled to a show in downtown New York. I left everything I had, including my keys, money, MBP, camera and show files in the taxi cab. It left and went to New Jersey. I couldn't breathe or function and had to play and make it through the show like everything was cool... Rough night for sure. Thankfully, I got my bag back! (... and my breathing!)

Favorite venue

The Old Wortham Theater! The rising stage and sound team were amazing experiences.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Over and Over (feat. Moshea Johnson) The voice singing is my sister who passed years back. Someone at her funeral walked up to me and handed me the only recording I still have of her singing. I edited it and made this song out of it.

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

Honest expression and storytelling in raw form.

Did you know...

I really love to cook food that speaks to the soul! It feels like music in the kitchen!

The first jazz album I bought was:

Chuck Mangione: Feels So Good.

Music you are listening to now:

Melvin Johnson: Little Red Wagon (Sincerely Yours Music)
Samara Joy: Can't Get Out of this Mood (Verve Records)
Stevie Wonder: Innervisions (Tamla)

Desert Island picks:

Gretchen Parlato: The Lost and Found (ObliqSound)
Robert Glasper: Black Radio 1 (Blue Note Records)
Brad Mehldau: The Art of Trio, Vol.4 (Warner Records)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

In my opinion, I feel that jazz is ready and needing for a revival. We have some amazing newcomers that are making waves and it's needed. We have to keep that going! I went to an event recently, and I felt like I was the youngest person at a senior-living facility... we've gotta make it appealing for those who will one day carry the torch! Make it fun and exciting for all ages!

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

Make it less stuffy and more about the experience and expression of the music and moment!

What is in the near future?

Well, in pandemic I wrote seven albums, so I think it's safe to say that I have plenty of new music, fortunately!

What is your greatest fear when you perform?

I will trip and fall in front of a little kid that is live-streaming! That would be so awful!

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I had a crazy idea to write a special song to be played at my funeral as a dedication to this beautiful journey! But I can write it until right before I die, so I think I'm gonna hold off for about 50 years before I begin...maybe 51 years.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

I'm normally too wet to whistle...ahahaha!

By Day:

I am an Elementary Music Educator, a Music Director, a church Keyboardist/Organist and Production Coordinator, Owner of a Live Music Entertainment Company and Father/Husband.

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

Wait... why would I want to think that way? Music is Life and that's the only way to live it!

If I could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be and why?

My Dad, Robert Parker. Before he passed, he was the most incredible and my favorite person/role model in the world. He would so proud to hear about my album that I made because of him.

If I could have a private lesson with any of the Great Pianists of All Time, who would it be and why?:

The great Barry Harris! I have literally studied so many videos and performances of his... and his method of delivering his wisdom is so priceless! I may be a little nervous to get it right, but I know it would be simply amazing!

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