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James P. Johnson

One of the great jazz pianists of all time, James P. Johnson was the king of stride pianists in the 1920s. He began working in New York clubs as early as 1913 and was quickly recognized as the pacesetter. In 1917, Johnson began making piano rolls. Duke Ellington learned from these (by slowing them down to half-speed), and a few years later, Johnson became Fats Waller's teacher and inspiration. During the '20s (starting in 1921), Johnson began to record, he was the nightly star at Harlem rent parties (accompanied by Waller and Willie "The Lion" Smith) and he wrote some of his most famous compositions during this period. For the 1923 Broadway show Running Wild (one of his dozen scores), Johnson composed "The Charleston" and "Old Fashioned Love," his earlier piano feature "Carolina Shout" became the test piece for other pianists, and some of his other songs included "If I Could Be with You One Hour Tonight" and "A Porter's Love Song to a Chambermaid."

Ironically, Johnson, the most sophisticated pianist of the 1920s, was also an expert accompanist for blues singers and he starred on several memorable Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters recordings. In addition to his solo recordings, Johnson led some hot combos on records and guested with Perry Bradford and Clarence Williams; he also shared the spotlight with Fats Waller on a few occasions. Because he was very interested in writing longer works, Johnson (who had composed "Yamekraw" in 1927) spent much of the '30s working on such pieces as "Harlem Symphony," "Symphony in Brown," and a blues opera. Unfortunately much of this music has been lost through the years. Johnson, who was only semi-active as a pianist throughout much of the '30s, started recording again in 1939, often sat in with Eddie Condon, and was active in the '40s despite some minor strokes. A major stroke in 1955 finished off his career. Most of his recordings have been reissued on CD. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Check out the song you got to be modernistic
A resounding WHOO~HOOOOOO O O O O O O O ! ! ! 2 Pandora 4 this intro 2 yet ANOTHER fabulous musician!!!
jamesmoses46
da man!!!
mentioned in the movie Ray, where Ray Charles was portrayed as a student of his, was the 1st time I heard of him. He originated this fanatastic style, and had plenty to do with the birth of modern jazz. His music swings big time, in unpredicatlb e ways.
When I was younger I considered that old people were a treasure to be consulted because of all that they knew and had lived. Don't let them go to waist. Now I are one and know and have lived a great deal and do you think anyone values that or axes me? Pish-posh! One of the most important things that I do know is that you never really know it all and being observant and interested should never leave you. When it does, so does life. That'll be 25 cents please. DMB
I love the comments you folks leave and to get the inside dope from people who were actually connected to the scene. I was born in 41 and this is all interesting history to me. Thanks people. DMB
wolfebuilt5
Stride bedrock. A solid bridge between rag and stride.
blake.davis3 6
I believe that this recording was done late in Johnson's life after he had had several strokes (?), and the drummer was used (erroneously ) during the session to help him keep time.
Reassuring to learn that Ellington slowed Johnson down to half speed to learn his licks. I was on the right track slowing the turntable to 16 to pick out Emerson & Wakeman.
Great! Art Tatum's sound, but slower and cleaner. Do I wish I could play like this.
oh ya,
Ahhh! This is what is meant by the Waylon Jennings lyric "piano roll blues, we danced holes in our shoes!"
Never heard of him. He's terrific!
Stride pianist. Very sophisticate d and worked with Duke Ellington.
The original, no less. It keeps getting deeper.
Mmmm...this is good!
bassecho33
the gems we discover by exploring. fabu!
man o man what a cool pianist, digging it man!
SUPERB!!

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