In 2003, George V Johnson Jr. was commissioned by Don Sickler of Second Floor Music to pen lyrics to the music of jazz legend and saxophonist, Hank Mobley. Since taking on the project Johnson has skillfully, completed over 40 of Mobley’s classic compositions and still counting. Some with complete solo’s. Critics are already saying this is one of the most important and extensive projects to be presented to the public from the jazz vocalese realm in many, many years. With Jazz Vocalese, still in a state of infancy, Johnson has almost single handedly kept the vocalese dream alive as exemplified from his performances presenting the Music of Hank Mobley. A feat unmatched by any of his peers in jazz music. His lyrics are well rounded, beautifully written and a classic work of art. In the spirit of Eddie Jefferson, Johnson’s a modern day "GRIO" telling stories our ancestors would be very proud of ...a la...Langston Hughes.
Johnson practically disappeared from the scene after performing during the entire 80’s with James Moody. He was also a favorite of Lou Donaldson, Barry Harris, Harold Mabern, John Hicks, George Coleman, Clifford Jordan, Harold Vick and made his recording debut with Pharoah Sanders on the LP Rejoice with original lyrics to John Coltrane‘s classic Moments Notice. His only recording during a 20 year span. For 10 years he performed with some of the greatest names in jazz while Moody presented him at the top clubs and festivals around the country and in NYC including the Village Vanguard, Sweet Basils, Carnegie Hall, 92nd Street Y, Town Hall, Jazz Mobil, the grand re-opening of the Apollo Theatre, Television and National Public Radio broadcast. Imagine! At almost any time you could hear a trumpet coming from the kitchen of Sweet Basil or the Village Vanguard and there was Dizzy Gillespie, Wood Shaw or even Bill Cosby coming to the stage to do a comedy routine. There was no doubt he was the hippest vocalist on the scene at that time. Singing original lyrics to Charlie Parkers, My Little Suede Shoes, Confirmation, Chi Chi, Barbados and songs he learned as a child listening to his mentor Eddie Jefferson like Night In Tunisia, So What, Now’s the Time, Lester Leaps, Moody’s Mood for Love and more.
Feeling somewhat dismay because of lack of recording offers, stability and the shady business surrounding the music industry. He says taking care of his family was not an option so he disappeared for a moment, working as a conductor on the railroad for 20 years, but continued to work on his craft, writing lyrics, plays and taking acting parts when time presented. Twenty years later in 2000 he comes out with a self produce CD "Next In Line". The opening cut features a 16 second sound bite of his mentor Eddie Jefferson the Founding Father of Jazz Vocalese uttering those exact words. One of my students George V Johnson Jr from Washington DC, He’s Next In Line! Next In Line! Sending a wake up call throughout the industry, that Johnson was the real deal. That same year he nominated and won "Best Jazz Male Vocals" for the 1st Annual Harlem Jazz Poll Awards. Out polling and bettering the likes of Al Jarreau, Bobby McFerrin, Kurt Elling, Kevin Mahogany, Allan Harris, George Benson and Jon Hendricks the headmaster of jazz vocalese.
George V Johnson Jr. is back on scene staking his claim and hasn’t lost a beat. From the first note that comes from his mouth the adrenaline flows through your body and you stop and think, wow! What a breath of fresh air! Where have you been? We’re glad you’re back!
For the past few years he has been introducing the jazz public to his Mobley lyrics with performances during the week long Hank Mobley Jazz Festival 2003 at Jazz Standard NYC, produced by Grammy Award winning arranger and trumpeter Don Sickler. Each evening he performed his lyrics for the first time with likes of Frank Wess, Don Braden, Eric Alexander, Seamus Blake, Don Sickler, Ronnie Mathews, John Hicks & Victor Lewis. The concert was attended by none other than Rudy Van Gelder who recorded Hank Mobley at his famous Van Gelder studio and hadn't made a club appearance since the mid 60s when John Coltrane appeared at the Village Vanguard. Quite a complement!
In preparation of a new and long awaited CD, Johnson has since then taken the Music Hank Mobley on the road touring and fine tuning his lyrics live on stage at Hartford Ct., Bushnell Park Monday Night 2004 Jazz Series & Live Radio Broadcast, 1st Annual Trenton Jazz Summit 2004, produced by himself, New Mexico, Philadelphia, and now Washington DC at Twins Lounge. The current group consist of Harry Appelman, Ephraim Wolfolk and Nassar Abadey. He now teaches jazz vocals at the prestigious American University and conducts a weekly workshop "The Art of Jazz Vocalese" at Twins lounge every Wednesday from 7:00 - 9:00 pm. His first project with the University and the workshop will be the Music of Hank Mobley. A well deserve presentation of one of the world’s greatest composers and saxophonist.
Hank Mobley recorded many of his classic compositions on the Blue Note label featuring some of the greatest names in jazz. Mobley composed over 100 songs that are becoming jazz classics and every musicians dream. Johnson’s soulful style and earthly lyrics to this great composers work establishes new dimensions in Jazz Vocalese. The voice accented with skillful musicians magically connects with the Mobley Spirit. Just imagine! Swinging, stories that take you on a musical voyage. Everyone should experience this. See what the buzz is all about. Join in the fun and bring the music of Hank Mobley to your city today. It’s Jazzically wonderful.
Hank's Symphony, Soul Station, Dig Dis, No Room For Squares, East of The Village, This I Dig of You, Take Your Pick, Three Way Split, Split Feelings, Up A Step, Work Out, The Baptist Beat, My Groove Your Move, Soft Impressions, Hank's Waltz, Chain Reaction, Roll Call, Syrup & Biscuits, Snappin Out, Comin' Back, The Feelings Good, Uh Huh, Up Over and Out, Looking East, Cute N' Pretty, Third Time Around, Bossa For Baby, Ballin, Madeline, No More Goodbyes, The Break Through, Hank's Other Bag, Infra Rae, Straight NoFilter, Caddy for Daddy, The Morning After. . . and more.