"... a budding jazz giant..." -- Frank Etheridge Offbeat
"a musical force to be reckoned with..." -- Melanie Falnia AXS.com
"... a sweet, singing soprano..." -- Mick Carlton Jazz Times
My life, my life, my life!
Calvin A. Johnson Jr (born November 21, 1985) is a saxophonist, composer and bandleader born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Calvin’s paternal grandfather, George Augustus “Son” Johnson, was a musician who led WPA bands during the Great Depression and taught musicians at the Grumswald School of Music in New Orleans. Son Johnson and Mrs. Johnson gave birth to 11 children, which included 5 boys and 6 girls. Of those 5 boys 4 were musicians. George Johnson Jr., Ralph Johnson, Alfred Johnson, and Lionel Johnson all have had illustrious careers in their own rights.
Calvin praises his long time mentor and close friend Edward “Kidd” Jordan who ingrained an impenetrable foundation in him at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation's School of Music and the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp. Johnson was able to nurture and expand his love and interest in the music business at the famed performing arts high school the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), whose alumni include Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr., and Wendell Pierce, to name a few. At NOCCA, under the instruction of the legendary Clyde Kerr Jr. and Kent Jordan, Calvin decided to pursue music as a career. While having always maintained a full-time music career Johnson received his B.S. in Business from the University of New Orleans.
Deeply rooted in music from both sides of his family tree, Calvin began his approach to music and the love of the horn at the tender age of 7 when he was given his first saxophone, and weekly lessons, by his Uncle Lionel. At the age of 12, Calvin played his first professional gig at the famous Tipitina’s night club in New Orleans with the New Orleans Jazz Babyz which included fellow youths Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and Omari Neville.
Johnson embodies the spiritual essence of his ancestors in his musical expression, and in his community involvement through the Preservation Hall Foundation, where he serves as a clinician and leads youth music workshops throughout the New Orleans Metro Area. He is an avid supporter of music in the City of New Orleans and the youth within his city through a partnership with the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation and the New Orleans Public School System where he serves as a musician mentor to aspiring music students. Johnson also has the pleasure of giving back to the community and the continuum of jazz by serving as a faculty member of the prestigious Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp.
Johnson's community interests run deeper than just the classroom. In 2016 Johnson had the pleasure of serving as the Chairman for NOCCA's (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts) annual spring gala. And as a double reward to Johnson it was announced that the 2016 gala was the most successful fundraiser yet for the NOCCA Institute (NOCCA's nonprofit fundraising entity). Johnson currently has the pleasure of assisting in advocating and crafting local cultural policy by sitting on the board for MACCNO (Music and Cultural Collation of New Orleans), which is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is: "To empower the New Orleans music and cultural community through collective self-representation advocating in the interests of cultural preservation, perpetuation, and positive economic impact."
On stage Johnson heads the bands Calvin Johnson and Native Son as well as Chapter:SOUL, and records with these bands under the label Alma Records. Native Son's self-entitled sophomore release was received to rave reviews and voted as one of the the top releases of 2015 by Offbeat Magazine Readers Poll as well as achieving 8th highest grossing album sold at the 2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival. He is currently recording his 3rd studio album, "Notes from a Native Son", which is set for a fall 2021 release.
Calvin has toured and/or recorded with the likes of: Harry Connick Jr., Aaron Neville, Jason Derulo, Blind Boys of Alabama, Irma Thomas, Preservation Hall, Mannie Fresh, Mystikal, Irvin Mayfield, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. He has played many esteemed venues and festivals such as Jazz at Lincoln Center, the White House, Kodak Theatre, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, French Quarter Festival, the Berlin Jazz Festival, and Voodoo Music + Arts Experience.
In the spring of 2019 Calvin made his acting debut with a featured role in the Hollywood biopic "Bolden!" about jazz's first trumpeter and New Orleans native Buddy Bolden. In the film Johnson is casted as "Frank Lewis", the cocky and arrogant yet thorough clarinetist in Buddy Bolden's band. While on set in Georgia and North Carolina for 18 months Johnson assimilated naturally into the acting aspect of the film making arena. While no stranger to film making Johnson and director James Demaria have partnered on the production of a soon to be released documentary, TRAD, which is about the inception, evolution, and dissemination of New Orleans music and culture via interviews of living legends by Johnson.
Immediately following the conclusion of filming for "Bolden!" Johnson partnered with Hawaii lifestyle apparel brand Olukai and was and still continues to be a featured brand ambassador, appearing in their fall 2016 campaign.
Calvin, who currently splits his time between New Orleans and now Manhattan, New York. In New York Calvin has been taking to the jazz scene and has been seen at such venues as: Dizzy's Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Red Room, Minton's, the Urby, and the Django. When in New Orleans Calvin can be seen performing at the world renowned and intimate venue Preservation Hall every Sunday night. Here Johnson is kept rooted in the cultures, customs, norms, and traditions as passed down to him by his elders.