"When Johnson spins an interlude casually across the room, it's done with tender loving care." -Jim Santella, L.A. Jazz Scene
Chuck Johnson has been making a name for himself in Los Angeles with the CJSQuintet, a hard bop group he founded in early 2000. Having honed his talents on the horn with greats from jazz and rhythm and blues idioms, he turned his attention to creating his own musical legacy, founding the group with co-leader and trumpeter James Smith. The band was awarded the first-ever Chuck Niles Jazz Music Award during competition at the 2005 Temecula Valley International Jazz Festival. Since forming the group they have made notable appearances at the Central Avenue Jazz Festival, City of Beverly Hills “Affaire in the Gardens”, Playboy Jazz at the Rose Bowl, Temecula Valley International Jazz Festival, and Friends of the Levitt Concerts Under the Stars, as well as on numerous television and radio programs. In 2002 CJSQ was crowned Mainstream Jazz Artist of the Year, at the Long Beach Jazz Search. Their two CD releases Let's PLAY! (2006), and An Affair of the Art (2003), have received accolades from jazz critics and fans alike.
Chuck is a native of Owensboro, Kentucky and began his formal musical education at the age of 6 on piano, although his real interest at the time was drums. His father played guitar, his mother piano, organ and ukulele, his older brother trumpet and his oldest brother Reggie bass. [Reggie Johnson is a well respected jazz bassist (Art Blakey, Kenny Burrell, Clark Terry, Mingus Dynasty Band)]. Needless to say, Chuck was surrounded by music early in his life--but he did not feel compelled to become a musician until years later. Following high school graduation Chuck entered the University of Evansville as an electrical engineering major and a piano minor. In 1976 he consulted for a change in majors and the following year was reluctantly accepted [since beginning students at this age seldom maintain a commitment to their instrument] as a saxophone major in the Music Management degree program. This served as the catalyst for many other accomplishments and endeavors, including subsequently being named Sinfonian of the Year of Phi Mu Alpha Professional Music Fraternity. Thus Chuck's initiation to the saxophone at the University of Evansville launched what would become not only his primary passion in life, but a flourishing career. Evansville holds another important distinction as Chuck was instrumental in re-instituting the jazz format at radio station WUEV-FM, after having refined and expanded programming parameters to reflect a broader and more eclectic variety of popular music, while filling an obvious void of African-American jazz forms. His agenda included the objective of introducing both popular and obscure jazz to a listening audience hungry and receptive to his innovative approach.
His education and expertise served him well when he was brought on board the prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, where he initiated the first student chapter of their award-winning International Association of Jazz Educators. It was here he continued introducing African-American music to new audiences as a producer. Since his days at Interlochen, Chuck furthered his horizons by completing the Professional Instrumental Program at the Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, and has been active with the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz and the International Association of Jazz Appreciation. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Jazz Heritage Foundation and the National Alumni Board for Interlochen Center for the Arts.
Since moving to Los Angeles in 1984, Chuck has had a wide range of performing opportunities from solo saxophone to sax quartets to big bands, movies and more. He has performed with such artists as Buddy Collette, Roy McCurdy, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Francisco Aguabella, Albert "Tootie" Heath, Billy Higgins, Bloodstone, Bobby Womack, and John Guerin among others. Aside from his regular appearances with CJSQ, Chuck may also be seen performing with Soup's Ready, Chester Whitmore's Opus One Big Band, Bobby D. and the Mix, and the Oakdale Saxophone Quartet. Chuck has studied with Dr. Edwin Lacy (University of Evansville), Lanny Morgan (Supersax, Terry Gibbs, Bob Florence), Jon Nagourney (Dick Berk, Frank Strazzeri, Sam Most) and his most influential teacher and mentor, Phil Sobel (West Coast Saxophone Quartet, NBC Staff Orchestra, Frank Sinatra)