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ALPHONSO JOHNSON

Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States


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Alphonso Johnson biography
Alphonso Johnson (born 2 February 1951 in Philadelphia) started as upright bass player, but switched to the electric bass in his late teens. He played as session bassist with a few jazz musicians (his early gigs included time with Horace Silver, Woody Herman (1972), Chuck Mangione (1973), and Chet Baker )and then changed co-founding member Miroslav Vitous in Weather Report. Johnson, ranked alongside peers Stanley Clarke and Steve Swallow, was considered one of the best bassists of the period. His playing was featured on the Weather Report album Mysterious Traveler, on the songs Cucumber Slumber and Scarlet Woman. As Weather Report's bassist from 1974 to 1976, Johnson's warm tone and fluent chops contributed to the band?s initial breakout from avant-garde into funk fusion. Then he left the band to work with drummer Billy Cobham. During 1976-77 he recorded three solo albums as a band leader, for the Epic label, in a fusion-funk vein.

During the late 1970s, Johnson began playing and recording with an instrument called the Chapman Stick, which is a bass with an extra five strings so a player can simulate bass and lead guitar tones simultaneously. In 1978, Johnson appeared on trumpeter Eddie Henderson's fusion album Sunburst, which came out on Blue Note Records . He was mentioned as possible replacement of Steve Hacket in Genesis, and participated on Phil Collins solo debut. In early 1982, Johnson joined Grateful Dead member Bob Weir's side project, Bobby and the Midnites. He would reunite with Weir playing bass in place of Phil Lesh on The Other Ones 2000 tour. He has performed fusion versions of Grateful Dead covers alongside Billy Cobham in the band Jazz Is Dead.

In 1985-1989 Alphonso played in Santana's band. Later in 1996, Johnson toured with saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist, James Beard, drummer Rodney Holmes and, guitarist David Gilmore playing shows that stretched across Europe and Japan. Johnson performed with Jazz Is Dead until 2002, and appears on the albums Blue Light Rain, Laughing Water, and Great Sky River. Johnson has taught all over the world and in 2004 he was appointed associate professor of music at the University of Southern California, whose jazz faculty includes drummer Peter Erskine and keyboardist Alan Pasqua.


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MoonshadowsMoonshadows
Wounded Bird Records 2006
Audio CD$79.95
$39.99 (used)
Yesterday's DreamsYesterday's Dreams
Wounded Bird Records 2006
Audio CD$199.98
$199.99 (used)
SpellboundSpellbound
Wounded Bird Records 2006
Audio CD$43.99
$22.22 (used)
CollectionCollection
Import
Connoisseur Coll. 2000
Audio CD$166.69
$46.99 (used)
Guitar & BassGuitar & Bass
Import
Sbme Import 2004
Audio CD$29.98 (used)
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ALPHONSO JOHNSON discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

ALPHONSO JOHNSON top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
Moonshadows
1976
3.00 | 3 ratings
Yesterday's Dreams
1976
2.05 | 2 ratings
Spellbound
1977

ALPHONSO JOHNSON Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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0.00 | 0 ratings
Collection
2000
0.00 | 0 ratings
Guitar & Bass
2004

ALPHONSO JOHNSON Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

ALPHONSO JOHNSON Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Yesterday's Dreams by JOHNSON , ALPHONSO album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Yesterday's Dreams
Alphonso Johnson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by b_olariu
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Alphonso Johnson was one of the most known bassists from the mid '70's his contribution to the band he plays 3 years Weather Report is no doubt an important one. In WR period when still was a member he release 3 albums 2 in 1976 and one in 1977. His second solo effort from 1976 named Yesterday's dream is a collection of jazz fusion with funky moments. The album is ok, but nothing really is groundbreaking here even there are a bunch of well known musicins involved in this release. Besides great Chester Thompson on drums, Ian Underwood on keybords, the rest of the musicians are more or less known to me. The music is clearly jazz fusion funky orientated where the bass of Alphonso make the law, great chops quite complictaed but melted with the rest of the instrumenta the result is pretty ok. Most of the album is instrumental with copuple of ocasions where the pieces has voice like on Show Us The Way. So all in all an ok album, nothing spectacular in my opinion, it sounds like many album s from that period in jazz fusion realm, those more funky orientated but not a bad one. Alphonso Johnson remain an important bassist in this genre and that shown by the great number of appearences in many band or artist albums over the years. 3 stars, good but nothing more.

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 Spellbound by JOHNSON , ALPHONSO album cover Studio Album, 1977
2.05 | 2 ratings

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Spellbound
Alphonso Johnson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars 2.5 stars really

Third and last album (for the 70's anyway) from the ex-Weather report bassist Alphonso Johnson, this time helped out by from what it looks like a set-group (this might have been a regular band, maybe they even toured) and in the reduced guest list, only Pat Thrall (future Pat Travers Band and Glen Hughes) rings a bell to yours truly. A rather boring photo, but showing the Chapman graces the album's cover.

If Johnson appears with that now-famous Chapman stickon the cover, the least we can say is that it is all over this album as well >> it can even serve as a demo for the instrument makers.. The first half has three sung tunes, which is generally not good news in jazz-rock, but then again, most of the tracks on that album don't really qualify as such (funky jazz-funk at most ;o))). Nothing really transcendental or even remotely interesting on this side. Musically, this album is all over the map, a bit like the other two, but again there are four sung tracks, even if the sidelong suite Earthtales only gets a couple lines, twice. Don't get your hopes up to high about it though?. The first half is downright boring (nothing exciting happening), but around the 2/3 mark, it does get more exciting as they all crank up the volume and passed on the third gear? there are good moments in there, but unfortunately a bit tempered by disputable synth sounds of the late-70's. Just like his other two 70's albums, this is hardly essential (except for the Chapman stick), and if you want to discover his works, I suggest you start with Yesterday's Dream.

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 Yesterday's Dreams by JOHNSON , ALPHONSO album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Yesterday's Dreams
Alphonso Johnson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars Second album from the (not yet) ex-Weather Report bassist, released the same year as his debut solo effort, but this time, the guest list is a little less stellar (prog-wise anyway) where only Lee Ritenour and Ian Underwood return and an appearance from Chester Thompson (the drummer). Graced with an interesting artwork (pre-figuring the future Journey album artworks in a few years) released on Epic, the album contains 8 songs all written by Alphonso himself, except for the album opening and closing tracks, which are collective efforts. This a typical mid-70's musical industry made in LA, so don't get your hopes up to high is the best advice I can give you.

A bit like the previous album, the musical direction point to every corner of the map, and of course this is not to please demanding progheads. There are some soul-funk tracks (the opening The Way I Feel and Show Us The Way) and generally these are the ones I really tend to skip to avoid self-aggravation. Don't get me wrong, they're probably just fine for the listener Alphonso was aiming at, but I have dumb love songs and commercial attempts (successful or not) There are some technical/complex and generally instrumental funk tracks with jazz overtones (As Little As You, Scapegoat, Balls To The Wall) that are actually fairly impressive (and generally better appreciated by yours truly), but I find that Chic did those a whole lot better, but there is again some cool developments in these, especially from Grover Washington's sax.

Alphonso's ultra-funky bass of course dictates the style of music, to the point that those non-funk ones lose a little credibility: the love-dripping Show Us The Way with its Barry White-like baritone vocals), even if it could find its place as a prog interlude on a Camel album, but without the vocals. Balls To The Wall is probably the album's most "most" moment of the album (no surprises if you look at the best possible combination from the invited participants), sounding close to a good Return To Forever. Tales Of Barcelona has a slightly proggy Santana sound (circa Illuminations or Borboletta)and serves of an intro to Flight To Hampstead, which is also in a jazz-rock template, gradually growing to Zappa-like music towards its end, courtesy of a Underwood-iam xylophone. The closing funk-jazz One To One is worthy of a mention as well.

A bit better than Moonshadows, but certainly not more essential (unless you're a funk addict) and certainly hundred of albums are better suited to fill a proghead's shelves. Good musicianship and professional recording & production make this a good album, especially the B-side), but not much more. I'm glad I have my library system to listen to such albums, should I ever feel like re-listening to them. Actually by taking all three of his 70's albums, you could probably cook up a solid compilation.

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 Moonshadows by JOHNSON , ALPHONSO album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Moonshadows
Alphonso Johnson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars First solo album from the ex-Weather Report bassist, group he left to work with Cobham, but he started recording his own solo albums, and Moonshadows is his first. Released in 76 on the Epic label, the album might have switched front and back cover illustrations (nit- picking, here), but Alphonso chose some mighty friends for his debut solo: Leon Chancler, Narada Walden, Alphonse Mouzon, Flora Purim, and hubby Airto Moreira, Bennie Maupin, Ian Underwood, just to name a few. Johnson was first a stand-up or contrabass player, but switched to electric bass and became one of the Chapman stick explorer and there is all three on this album.

Despite the many Latin-American players, this album is not as ethnic as you'd fear it to be, especially knowing that Johnson was still in WR's Black Market. You can't really label this album as jazz-funk either. It's probably best to describe it as fusion or jazz-fusion and in that regards, it's fairly typical of mid-70's album of that microcosm. Starting on a typical jazz-funk of Stump, the album moves quickly to a slow-starting Involuntarily Bliss and the music gradually picks up, only to return to the smooth gliding layers of the start of the track with Flora Purim's aerial scats. Not fascinating, but soothing. Cosmoba Place starts on a descending guitar riff, but it soon dissolves to make space for a piano ostinato, before the guitar returns in rock-fashion histrionics with excellent drumming (Walden I gather) before moving on to other delightful passages. Excellent stuff. Maupin's typical bass clarinet opens Pandora's Box over cymbal scratches, but there is little happening, besides a slow pedestrian bass.

Another funk-jazz track, Up From The Cellar, opens the flipside (which unlike the other is not all Johnson-penned) and you'd believe you're on a Mysterious Traveller album, if it wasn't for Purim's soft singing, Alphonso's ultra funk and technical bass being the centre of attention. Certainly the weak track on this album, IMHO. Amarteifio is a quiet and slow soft jazz that oozes boredom over sea waves. On The Case is the more essential track on this side, with a strong rock-like guitar over a Rhodes-led funk-rock with lots of bravura. The closing track is an ambitious (but flawed) uptempo jazz-rock piece that moves into different passages (some convincing, others less), but the pompous vocals ruin it partially.

An interesting album that shows Alphonso's greatest strengths AND weaknesses at the same time and has certainly not revolutionize the JR/F genre, but to those interested in WR? related works, Alphonso's first solo album is certainly worth putting an ear on it and even own it if he wants to consolidate his JR/F. Not essential or groundbreaking, but good enough to draw your attention, despite a few flaws, but personally I'll pass on it.

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 Moonshadows by JOHNSON , ALPHONSO album cover Studio Album, 1976
3.00 | 3 ratings

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Moonshadows
Alphonso Johnson Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars Debut solo album of one-time Weather Report bassist Alphonso Johnson is quite characteristic jazz fusion from mid-70-s. Strongly based on keyboards sound (Narada Michael Walden , Alphonse Mouzon and Ian Underwood all are presented on this recordings), there still is some place for Johnson bass and some guitars and percussion as well. Even vocals of Flora Purim is presented, but when I will say, that Airto Moreira and Alejandro Acuna both are percussionists there, and one of guitarists is Lee Ritenour, you can almost imagine, what the music is.

No, it is not pure Latin jazz, or even Latin fusion, but it is quite warm, soft light and relaxed jazz fusion with some pop-jazz or even disco elements. Johnson gave some funky groove to this music, but in fact bass is far from being important instrument there. Music is well balanced and comfortable jazzy mix, with some soul vocals and pop-moments. Happily, listener still can find few more serious and interesting moments here and there.

I believe this album could be good addition to jazz-funk fusion lover, but don't you try to find something experimental, new or just serious in this album. More music for your heart and feet, than for your head.

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Thanks to snobb for the artist addition.

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