Johnson, Howard (Lewis )
- Richard H. Perry
(b Montgomery, AL, Aug 7, 1941). American jazz tuba player, baritone saxophonist, and bandleader. Largely self-taught, he first learned baritone saxophone, then tuba. In 1963 he moved to New York, where he quickly established himself as a leading jazz tuba player and performed with Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, and, notably, Gil Evans. He played with Evans’s orchestra from 1966 until the leader’s death in 1988. He also worked with Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Chet Baker, and McCoy Tyner and spent several years with the Norddeutscher Rundfunk orchestra. From 1975 to 1980 he was a member of the house band for “Saturday Night Live,” serving as bandleader from 1979 to 1980.
Although Johnson has been recognized for his work on baritone saxophone, he is best known for his tuba playing and for his work with tuba ensembles. In 1968 he formed the first jazz tuba ensemble, Substructure. Although this group never recorded, Johnson subsequently formed Gravity, an ensemble with six tubas, in the 1970s; it released ...