he has backed accomplished jazz artists such as McCoy
Tyner and Shannon Jackson,
Jef Lee Johnson views songwriting from a pure
pop perspective. "I've been on sessions where everyone
keeps talking about "'he hit,'" he says. "But
the songs that wind up getting hummed forever are the
ones that sound the most like Mary Had a Little Lamb.'
Writing hits isn't about reinventing anything, it's about
doing something that doesn't alienate people."
While Johnson may appreciate the uncomplicated melodies
of nursury rhymes, his guitar playing is anything but
simplistic. The pungent, jazz-funk solos on his album Communion (DIW)
brand him as a guitarists' guitarist, and
his pianistic approach to chording betrays influences
such as Thelonius Monk, Herbie
Hancock, and Jan Hammer.
A Johnson E9 for example, includes a 6(C#) next to the
flat 7(D) and is voiced G#-C#-D-F#, as opposed to
the more conventional guitar voicing of E-G#-D-F#.
"I try to use clustered voicings whenever possible,"he says. "And
that usually involves some stretchy-fingers type stuff
to get those chords voiced like apianist would play them."
Johnson recorded Communion-the
follow-up to 1995's Blue (Coconut
Grove)-at his Philly home, playing all the instruments
himself. He used a G&L Legacy and a G&L ASAT,
both strung with Dean Markley custom lights
(.009-046), to produce the clear, clean sound he prefers.
To keep the sound as clean as possible, Johnson
plugged his guitarsinto a Tube Works Real Tube
4001 DI and recorded the signals direct to a Tascam
M2524 24-track. For grittier tones, he used a Mesa/Boogie
V-Twin. His favorite signal processor in Lexicon's
which he typically uses to seamlessly cross fade from
one effect to another.
"the Vortex effect-morphing function lets me creat a lot more tension and
friction in the area between sounds," says Johnson. "For example, durring
the outro solo on 'Jumped the Gun Again,' the guitar starts out moody and then
starts to get kind of scary. The transition between the two moods is almost imperceptible.
It's like I'm just nudging you, instead of just elling you something. That's
really what I want to do with my playing."
one word: irreplaceable!" -King Britt
"The funkiest man I know alive, today!" -Rachelle
"...the Hendrix of our generation!" -D'Angelo
"(his)CDs stay in my player...(he's) a gift from God." -Chaka
"He is God."-?uestlove (The Roots)
"He's one on
the funkiest, and baddest brothers
I've ever heard on the guitar"-Common
"Where have you been all my life?"-Lenny
he has it all: You want
Robert JOHNSON, he's
HENDRIX, he's got that, the jazz is covered, a little
he's a great songwriter, and he's got a beautiful
you been all my musical life?!?
You are beautiful." -Roberta Flack
"If Miles was Alive, I'd introduce
(Jef) to him right now!"
"I've now worked with the three greatest
of all time:
Alexis KORNER, Jimi HENDRIX,
and Jef Lee Johnson."
-Terry "Skipper" McVay
"15 years ago, when I first started doing gigs in Philly,
Jef was the most revered guitarist in town.
Today, not only is he still the most revered cat
in Philly, but now the world knows who the
funkiest cat on the box is" -Christian McBride
brilliant guitar player
that ever lived." -Ronald
"My favorite bass and guitar
player." -Leon Huff
"If I played
guitar, that's how I'd
added timeless moans
and primal wails to my
me to remember where
my voice, and the sound
of the strings met, and
made love for the first
time. Now I know the wonder
of the lead guitar." -Erykah
Lee Johnson is one of those
rare musicians who 'gets
it!' He knows how to
make the music take flight-'to go where no man has
gone before.' Besides being a truly adventurous
guitarist, he's also an outstanding composer, bass
and keyboard player; blending his roots in Blues
with his love and understanding of Jazz and Latin
Music. In other words, he's done his homework.
Since I was first introduced to Jef, he has quickly
become my favorite guitarist. He's one of a kind,
with a distinct personal and musical point of view-We
Need More Like Him!
-GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE Issue 349 Volume
33 No. 1 January 1999 www.guitarplayer.com
::: SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY :::
The Singularity 1999
sounds at times like Stevie Wonder,
but he's earthier,
more dangerous and less commercial." -Philadelphia Inquirer
The Hype Factory 2001
CD vaults from industrial-strength funk to spine-tingling
blues-rock, from bass-heavy grooves to shapely
melodies that persist
in the mind after the party
ends." -Philadelphia Inquirer
Things Are Things 2002
fourth CD picks away at the grainy colors
in funk. It's full of quivering chords, ramrod
beats, and bluesy grooves... Johnson plays like
a man with a wah-wah pedal on his car's accelerator." -Philadelphia Inquirer
St. Somebody 2002
guitar wavers like an Indian sitar on 'promise
of lovevolution' while 'ism ism' burns with a
rock flame and some sizzling lyrics." -Philadelphia
assembles a lot of quick takes that showcase his handsome
voice, his penchant for spacy doodlings and country
pluckings, and his steak-tartarelike guitar solos." -Philadelphia
Laughing Boy 2003
the final track, a cover of Jimi Hendix' "Rainy
Day, Dream Away," this is yet another compilation
of no less than 21 original compositions by the
prolific Jef Lee Johnson.