back to:


A short Interview with J.J. Johnson
Jazz Instrumentalist

Would you prefer to be lauded for your jazz or soundtrack works?
I would much rather be lauded for my career as a Jazz Instrumentalist, because that has been the focus of my life as a professional musician.

How did you feel about working with some of the big soul stars of the time?
In film composition in general the film composer rarely if ever come into contact with the stars of the movie. The stars work in Production.
The composer works in Post Production, which takes place long after the movie has been filmed, and edited.

Do you think that the music and attitude of these films had a positive cultural effect?
No, I do not.

How strongly were you influenced by other artists?
I was not influenced very much by other artists, because the movie dictates that the composer be influenced only by what he sees when he views the film.

What was it like to work with Quincy Jones, and how do you think you influenced each others' movie scores?
It was a joy to work with Quincy Jones, because he is such a marvelous Human Being. No, I do not think that we influenced each other's movie scores. I feel that we had a mutual respect for each others work in film composition.

Did the fact that you both came from strong jazz backgrounds help with arranging and composition?
Movie producers, directors, etc. usually shy away from film composers with a Jazz background. Mostly what their films need is underscore and more specifically dramatic underscore, much of it under dialogue in the film. Jazz music is very distractive in these types of situations. There are exceptions of course, depending on the producer, and the basic story that he is telling with his movie. Film studio issues and other pressures:

How much of your scores were dictated by the studios and how much artistic freedom were you given at the time? Did you *have* to adopt a funk feel for these scores rather than a jazz feel, or did you write what you felt was appropriate for the movie?
As I mentioned before, the producer and his film are the primary guidelines for what a composer writes. There are conferences and meetings where the music is discussed in depth, so that the film composer has the benefit of knowing precisely what is expected of him. Even so, many famous composers have had their scores thrown out because the producer, director, etc did not like the music that the composer wrote. The most famous example is of course "Space Oddysey 2001". Alex North wrote a marvelous score for the movie, according to the musicians who played in the Orchestra. And yet, his score was thrown out because the Production Co. did not like his music. They ended up using music from existing Classical music scores, and other varied sources. Film composing is a 'dangerous game' even under the most ideal conditions.
;) Thanx! An eMail-interview with J.Johnson, Oct. 1998 by Edward Griffiths

If you could get into contact with another artist, please let us know.

All site contents ©1998 The author has asserted his moral rights. Cover scans, album reviews, all other text content and/or pictures may only be used by prior permission of But what the hell, I'm a nice guy, so drop me a line!