TVD Recommends: Calvin Johnson, Jr. at Café Istanbul, 12/5

The name may not be instantly recognizable, but anyone who has spent any time in the clubs of New Orleans will know the face. The multi-reed man is going solo with his first recorded effort, and the album release party begins tonight at 9 PM in the Healing Center on St. Claude Avenue.

Hailing from another of New Orleans’ musical families, Johnson is a versatile musician who has gigged around town with a wide variety of bands. Versed in every genre from brass bands to funk, his work on various saxophones has impressed me every time.

I first heard him back in 2004 at the Freret Street Festival with Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Even as a teenager he was poised and confident on stage. As he matriculated through the scene he played with Irvin Mayfield, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Gerald French, Glen David Andrews, and numerous other acts honing his chops and developing his sound.

One particular gig stands out because it was in the Jazz Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and featured some heavy hitters. “Baritone Bliss” was a unique project organized by Roger Lewis, the venerable “Dirty Old Man” of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Johnson played baritone sax along with Lewis, Tony Dagradi, and Tim Green. Dan Oestreicher, who now plays with Trombone Shorty, was on bass sax. If that front line wasn’t enough to fire up the crowd, the drummer was Shannon Powell!

Johnson has been playing regularly lately with uber-sousaphonist Kirk Joseph’s new project Chapter Soul. But tonight, it’s all about his modern jazz quartet and their new recording, Jewel’s Lullaby. Joe Dyson will be on drums, Nathan Lambertson on bass, and Eduardo Tozzatto on keys.

See you there!

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