Sax player Scott “ScoJo” Johnson is one of the gems I discovered during my stay in New Orleans last year. Johnson is arguably one of the most studious and hard-working musicians in Crescent City. In one season, I saw Johnson gig with Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazzfest) and Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, freelance at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street and accompany flutist Nikia Russell at the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in the Ninth Ward. I recently caught up with the cool southern gentleman for a brief talk on music. Check out a clip of ScoJo performing:
Streetwise Radio: Where are you from originally, and what drew you to New Orleans?
Johnson: I’m originally from Jackson, MS. I taught marching band for several years after I graduated from college at the University of Southern Mississippi. I only got a chance to gig two times every three months. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy with that. I saw an Alan Watts video that was basically asking what you would do for a living if money were not an object. I quit the next day after I saw that video, and moved to New Orleans. I, along with all of my friends, would visit New Orleans all the time, so I knew what the music scene was like. It seemed like any time of day, seven days a week, there was something great going on as far as music goes. I came here because I felt like I could have a chance to play as little or as much as I wanted to.
Streetwise Radio: What drew you to the sax and how many instruments do you play?
Johnson: In elementary school, all of the fourth and fifth graders were required to play the recorder. The fingering for the recorder is extremely similar to the saxophone. I auditioned for a performing arts school on the recorder. After I made it into the school, the instrumental instructor started me on saxophone because of the similar fingerings. Clarinet and flute have similar fingers to the sax, so I play those also. I also play the piano/keyboard.
Streetwise Radio: Music wise, what projects are you working on now?
Johnson: I’m currently working on an endorsement deal with a saxophone company. I can’t name the company until they give me the green light (and this is assuming that I get the endorsement). I’m also writing music again. Ideally, I would like to have an album completed by the fall of 2020.
Streetwise Radio: Describe your favorite festival experience of all time.
Johnson: I perform with Delfeayo Marsalis’ Uptown Jazz Orchestra. We recently had a performance in Connecticut at the Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz. I think that was my favorite festival that I’ve performed at so far. Even the visual ascetics were unreal. To look into the crowd of hundreds of people sitting on the grass having the time of their lives... unbelievable.
Streetwise Radio: What pop song would you like to redo in jazz?
Johnson: I’ve arranged several pop tunes in the style of jazz. My favorite one that I’ve done is actually a rock tune called “Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden.
Streetwise Radio: So, what do jazz musicians like yourself do when hurricanes hit NOLA?
Johnson: During Hurricane Barry, the shows go on! If the venue is still open, we show up to play!!
Catch Scott “ScoJo” Johnson live on tour with Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra, and every Wednesday night with the Orchestra at Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro, snugjazz.com.