If you follow me on Facebook, then there is a good chance you've seen some posts by Elzy Kolb leading up to my 75th birthday earlier this year. Starting back in February, she took it upon herself to name a different musician on my "resume" each day, until my birthday. But months after turning 75, Elzy is still producing names. It has been a fun to see the names she’s come up with thus far and talk to her about some of these musicians.
I wanted to compile a list of her dedicated efforts here, for other people to enjoy, see and perhaps even add their own stories to. I encourage you to explore the musicians you haven’t heard before, listen again to the ones you have and share both with others.
February 29 ·A daily post of the name of one of the greats [Howard’s] played with, such as Charles Mingus.
March 1 · Howard Johnson told me recently that he considers 74 to be a very "unsexy" age, and decided he'd rather spend two years as 75. He's definitely in his 75th year, though he won't officially reach that landmark birthday till August. Carla Bley, with whom Howard has often gigged and recorded, also hits a milestone in 2016--she'll be 80 in May.
March 2 · Here's another name in the list of people Howard Johnson played with: Taj Mahal.
March 3 · Michele Rosewoman is today's pick. Howard appeared with her New Yor-Uba band when she founded it decades ago, and appeared as a guest soloist when the band convened about a year ago.
March 4 · Drummer JT Lewis appeared with Howard Johnson's multi-tuba band Gravity at the 2015 Winter Jazz Fest.
March 5 · Alto saxophonist Vincent Herring is playing the Bethany Baptist Church in Newark tonight. Way back in the day he and Howard Johnson were part of a quintet Russell D. Vines put together for one brilliant night at a now-defunct dive in the Village
March 6 · Trumpeter/composer Charles Tolliver is 74 years old today. Howard, now in his 75th year, first recorded with Tolliver's band in 1971 and continued making his contributions heard into the 21st century
March 7 · Today is bassist Herb Bushler's birthday. He and Howard go way back: Both are Gil Evans alumni.
March 8 · Speaking of people Howard goes way back with, there's bassist Carline Ray, a bright light and a lovely inspiration
March 9 · Jimmy Heath turns 90 in October, but you don't have to wait till then to join him in celebrating. Catch his b'day gig tonight at the Blue Note. And, in case you're wondering, HoJo did indeed play in his band, and there's even a recording to prove it. Anyone wanna guess which one?
March 10 · Not only has Howard Johnson shared a bandstand with Pharoah Sanders, he also recorded a tribute to him, "Arrival," featuring compositions by Pharoah Sanders and others, along with some HoJo originals, including "Little Rock Prophet."
March 11 · McCoy Tyner is another giant Howard has gigged and recorded with, including on "The Turning Point" big band album. Howard has recorded a smoking' version of "Fly With the Wind" with his multi-tuba band Gravity.
March 12 · It's James Taylor's b'day. And just in case you're wondering...check out this video of the tuba maven accompanying Taylor on Sesame Street.
March 14 · Happy birthday, Quincy Jones. Yep, you guessed it, Howard Johnson recorded with the mighty Q!
March 15 · Lisa Parrott is another bass clef maven who's appeared with Howard Johnson's Bear-Tones. Howard really enjoyed hearing her latest CD, "Round Tripper," at my place on Thanksgiving.
March 16 · Pianist Francesca Tanksley is today’s pick from Howard Johnson’s long list of colleagues and collaborators. Francesca is a sentimental and artistic favorite for Russell D. Vines and me--she played our wedding, 20 years ago today. We walked in to “Naima” and walked out to “Joy Spring.” No music ever sounded lovelier! I'm all verklempt!
March 17 · Speaking of bass clef mavens among Howard’s BearTones, how 'bout bari saxophonist Lauren Sevian...
March 18 · The amazing pianist Randy Weston celebrates his 90th birthday at Zankel Hall on March 19. Howard Johnson has been on hand to play some of Weston's gigs in recent years, including his tribute to undersung jazz pioneer James Reese Europe.
March 19 · Did I ever mention that HoJo gigged with the legendary Ray Charles?
March 20 · Multi-instrumentalist Howard Johnson did a stint in Buddy Rich's band in 1966.
March 21 · Shortly after appearing with Buddy Rich, Howard moved over to Archie Shepp's band just in time to record "Mama Too Tight." I'm not gonna mention the personnel on that album, that's gonna make a week's worth of fun posts. I seem to remember Howard saying that at the time the critics were flummoxed that the same person could be versatile enough to fit into both bands.
March 22 · Singer Cynthia Scott plays Iridium March 23. And yes, you're right, Howard Johnson has backed up this former Raylette!
March 23 · Were we talking about Howard Johnson's recording credits? How about his performance on NEA Jazz Master Andrew Hill's classic "Passing Ships."
March 24 · There's the Supreme Court, and then there's the Supremes. Howard backed Miss Ross and her cohort more than once. Think about the bari sax line on "My World Is Empty Without You, Babe." It's a natural! BTW, Miss Ross' b'day is March 26. "Think it o-o-ver..."
March 25 · The all-star band The Cookers plays Smoke March 25-27. Howard Johnson has quite a bit of history with the members of that stellar group, including tenor saxophonist Billy Harper. He and Howard are both alumni of Gil Evans' and Charles Tolliver's big bands.
March 26 · "Live from New York...It's Saturday Night!" Wonder how many times Howard Johnson heard that phrase during the earliest years of SNL, when he was an instrumental part (sorry, couldn't resist) of the house band. When the band dressed as nurses during the first season, queen-size pantyhose were provided for everyone. Nope, one size does not fit all! After that experience, Howard Johnson felt sympathy and empathy for all of the women for whom pantyhose were a wardrobe staple. Perhaps he preferred the Egyptian gear he donned in this clip.
March 28 · So speaking of Diane Moser's Composers Big Band, Howard has appeared with the band several times as guest composer and guest soloist. At Trumpets on March 30, the CBB will play some Thad Jones tunes. You guessed it--he played and recorded with Thad several times over the years. All that and it's Thad's b'day, too, born 3/28/23.
March 29 · Bet you didn't know Howard Johnson played the Spinal Tap concert tour, complete with 18-inch Stonehenge and all the trappings.
March 30 · One of the fun things about hanging out with Howard Johnson is hearing him talk about the amazing playing and writing done by band mates he's been on the road with -- such as trumpeter Tom Harrell, who plays the Village Vanguard through April 3.
March 31 · Trumpeter Shunzo Ohno plays Symphony Space April 1. I heard him many times at Sweet Basil, part of Gil Evans' Monday Night Orchestra, along with Howard Johnson and a host of other greats.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 Comin Soon!