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"Henry Johnson"


Vision Music presents, for your learning pleasure...

My Shining Hour

by Henry Johnson

Meet Henry Johnson...

A brilliant, Chicago-based jazz guitarist, vocalist, and instructor, Henry Johnson joins our team at Vision Music, with a fine bebop solo chorus to share with the fans. "My Shining Hour" was recorded by Henry on a recent CD release. Transcription courtesy of our mutual friend and faculty member, Mr. Wolf Marshall.


B>About the Lesson...

"My Shining Hour" is one of eight tracks recorded live by the Henry Johnson Quartet, during the 1999 "Floating Jazz Festival" on the legendary Queen Elizabeth II.

"An Evening At Sea" (Chiaroscuro Records) features Johnson on guitar, Kenny Drew, Jr. on piano, Larry Gray on bass, and Paul Humphrey on drums. Vocalist Vanessa Rubin also appears on one selection. Great solos abound, and this lesson highlights one 32-bar jazz guitar chorus.


Special Tribute...

On behalf of Vision Music, its fans, and all the fine artists associated with our guest faculty, I am honored and privileged to welcome Henry Johnson to our vision of sharing. If you're lucky enough to already be familiar with his work, you realize the depth of this man's talent. If you know him personally as I do now, you understand that his passion for jazz music and ability to communicate with others transcends the instrument, and in my mind is second to none.

"Deja Blous" is a blues tribute written for Henry. It's the least I can do for my friend and new member of our team, perhaps appropriate given our mutual affinity for blues in jazz, and all those who share in that love. His presence here is indeed a "shining hour" for all of us!

- Mark Stefani



The Henry Johnson Story...

Henry Johnson, born in the Windy City, began playing at age twelve. While spending some formative time in Memphis, he started playing gospel music at age thirteen. By age fourteen, Johnson was playing in R&B groups. Although Johnson's parents brought him up hearing the music of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Joe Williams, and other artists of that era, it was not until 1967 that Henry was formally introduced to jazz by hearing guitarist Wes Montgomery. In 1969, Johnson and his family then moved back to Chicago where he developed a reputation on the south side as a local jazz guitarist. In 1976, he went on the road with jazz organist Jack McDuff and had the good fortune to work with vocalist Donny Hathaway in 1977.

In 1979, Henry began playing with jazz pianist, Ramsey Lewis. And in 1985, jazz legend, Joe Williams added him to his regular group. Johnson's musical roots run deep into gospel, blues, and jazz. His strongest and earliest influences were Kenny Burrell, George Benson, and most significantly, Wes Montgomery. While influenced by these great guitarists, Johnson also cites the music of Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, big bands, and jazz orchestras as integral forces which shaped his style.

"You're The One," his recording debut for MCA/Impulse! achieved #1 status on both the Radio & Records NAC chart, and Contemporary Jazz chart for two months-a rare occurrence for a first recording. This recording also won a five star rating in Downbeat magazine, and was nominated for a Grammy. Jazz Times reviewer Diane Patrick called "You're The One" "A thoughtful piece of work which may well become a jazz guitar classic."

Johnson's follow-up recordings, "Future Excursions" and "Never Too Much" also reached the top of the charts."New Beginnings," was Johnson's debut recording for the Heads Up International jazz label. Johnson's music has been a favorite at radio stations worldwide since the release of his very first CD, "You're the One" on MCA/Impulse! and the appeal of his music continued with the release of his second recording for Heads Up International, titled "Missing You."



Artist Recordings...

Here are a few of Henry Johnson's recent releases as a leader:

In addition to his solo recording projects, Johnson has found time to record with the likes of Ramsey Lewis, vocalists Joe Williams and Vanessa Ruben, and saxophonist Richie Cole among many others. He has performed with Nancy Wilson, Marlena Shaw, Angela Bofil, Dizzy Gillespie,the Boston Pops, Sonny Stitt, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington Jr., Stanley Turrentine, and organist Jimmy Smith, and many other jazz artists.

Seeing the need to re-invent himself, Johnson recorded a CD live called "An Evening At Sea" from aboard the ocean liner, the QE 2 in 1999. This recording has been well received by the jazz world. Johnson's latest group has been patterned after the hard swinging jazz groups of the '60's using the instrumentation of guitar, saxophone, organ, and drums. It is this new powerhouse group that has been exciting audiences the world over.

Note: You can find Henry's CDs in most major venues, or you can order them online at:

For Mr. Johnson's current schedule, please visit his website at



What the Critics Are Saying...


"Henry Johnson is a fantastic player and it is a rare treat to hear him in a pure jazz setting. Johnson is the kind of storyteller like Wes Montgomery or Clifford Brown that you never tire of listening to."

- Adrian Ingram (Just Jazz Guitar Magazine)


"Weaned on hard bop and the mainstream sounds of the 1960's, Chicago guitarist Henry Johnson has the big tone and strong swing that marked the best jazz of that era. He's got technique to burn, and best of all, he doesn't light it up just to prove that he can."

- Neil Tesser (Playboy Magazine)


"Time and time again Henry reveals his easy mastery of post-bop modern jazz guitar."

- Pete Welding (Downbeat Magazine)


"Another Chicagoan, and another player who knows his instrument's tradition, Johnson lets you hear the influence of Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery as well as his own lyricism and sly humor. He can be tender as well as funky, and he hits the sweet center of every note he plays."

- Bob Blumenthal (The Boston Globe)


"Henry Johnson plays straight-ahead be-bop guitar and plays it very well. Johnson wails on up tempo tunes and sings soulfully on the guitar with a lovely tone on ballads."

- David Franklin (Cadence Magazine)



Tips On Playing Your Musical Ideas Fast

One of the most frequently asked questions that I get from guitarists is "How do you play so fast?" And my response to this question has not changed over the last 20 years. I always tell them about what has worked for me and for others that I have learned from. And that is, in order to play something fast, you MUST learn and practice it very SLOW. Only by learning something slow can you truly know it to the point of it becoming second nature to you.

In other words, you don't have to THINK about the pick, the articulation, the fret position, or the fingering when you attempt to play a musical idea, you just do it. This allows you to react to the music and the musicians you're playing with, without thinking about all the details of execution. So, when you practice something new, be very thorough by forcing yourself to learn and practice your ideas very slow until you can play them PERFECT with NO mistakes. If you practice mistakes, you will play mistakes because that's just the way that your mind and body work together.

Your body doesn't know the difference, but your mind does, so, they have to be in sync with each other. It is also a very good idea to go back and review everything that you've learned using this technique so you can clean up the things that tend to play sloppy right now. Have patience. If you do this, I can guarantee you that you will not have to worry about playing something fast again. I hope that this tip has helped you in your on-going study of playing the guitar. No one said that it was easy. Good luck and have fun!

- Henry Johnson


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