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Calvin Johnson: A love letter to Sidney Bechet

November 9, 2022



1st Performance:
Doors Open at 6PM
Show Starts at 7PM

2nd Performance:
Doors Open at 8:30PM
Show Starts at 9:30PM

Tickets: $25
($20 Minimum Spend Per Guest)

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About the band:

Calvin Johnson (saxophone)

Errold Lanier (drums)

Andrew McGowan (piano)

Yuma Takagi (bass)

Calvin Johnson is a saxophonist, composer and bandleader born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He could not escape being a musician as he is a 3rd generation NOLA musician. 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). While having always maintained a full-time music career Johnson received his B.S. in Business from the University of New Orleans. Calvin stayed involved with the community through a number of organizations such as the Preservation Hall Foundation, where he served as a clinician and led youth music workshops throughout the New Orleans Metro Area. He was 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 served as a musician mentor to aspiring music students. Johnson also had 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.

On stage Johnson heads the band Native Son. Native Son’s self-entitled sophomore release was received to rave reviews and voted as one of 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. In the winter of 2022, Calvin released his third studio album, Notes Of A Native Son, to rave reviews. The project is Johnson’s most recent, and also his first that features his composition and arranging skills. 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 Jazz Band, Mannie Fresh, Mystikal, Irvin Mayfield, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Sidney Bechet (May 14, 1897 – May 14, 1959) was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer. He was one of the first important soloists in jazz, and first recorded several months before trumpeter Louis Armstrong. His erratic temperament hampered his career, and not until the late 1940s did he earn wide acclaim. Bechet spent much of his later life in France.

Bechet played in many New Orleans ensembles using the improvisational techniques of the time (obbligatos with scales and arpeggios and varying the melody). While working with Louis Armstrong, Bechet was the first musician to develop the Swing style of jazz; he influenced the widening difference between jazz and ragtime. Bechet liked to have his sound dominate in a performance, and trumpeters reportedly found it difficult to play alongside him. He performed in parades with Freddie Keppard’s brass band, the Olympia Orchestra, and in John Robichaux’s dance orchestra. From 1911 to 1912, he performed with Bunk Johnson in the Eagle Band of New Orleans and in 1913–14 with King Oliver in the Olympia Band. From 1914 to 1917, he was touring and traveling, going as far north as Chicago and frequently performing with Freddie Keppard.

In the spring of 1919, he traveled to New York City where he joined Will Marion Cook’s Syncopated Orchestra. Soon after, the orchestra traveled to Europe; almost immediately upon arrival, they performed at the Royal Philharmonic Hall in London. The group was warmly received, and Bechet was especially popular. While in London, he discovered the straight soprano saxophone and developed a style unlike his clarinet tone. Bechet was the first influential soprano saxophonist, and led to its rising popularity in jazz. His saxophone sound could be described as emotional, reckless, and large. He often used a broad vibrato, similar to some New Orleans clarinetists at the time. In 1919, Ernest Ansermet, a Swiss classical music conductor, wrote a tribute to Bechet, one of the earliest (if not the first) to a jazz musician from the field of classical music, linking Bechet’s music with that of Bach.

Bechet’s first recordings were made in 1923 and 1924. The session was led by Clarence Williams, a pianist and songwriter, better known at that time for his music publishing and record producing, and his “Blue Five” (which included Louis Armstrong). Bechet recorded “Wild Cat Blues” and “Kansas City Man Blues”. The former is in a ragtime style with four 16-bar themes, and the latter is a 12-bar blues. In 1924, Bechet worked with Duke Ellington for three months and made a significant impact on Ellington’s early jazz style. Duke Ellington called him “the epitome of jazz.” However, he never learned how to read music in his lifetime of being a musician.


Minton’s Playhouse
206 West 118th Street
Harlem, NY 11026 United States
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