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About Dick Johnson

A versatile and valuable reed player, Dick Johnson was long known for his beautiful tone and his fluent style. He started out on piano, switching to clarinet when he was 16 and adding alto three years later. Johnson attended the New England Conservatory for two years. Based throughout much of his career in Boston, Johnson freelanced and taught in the city. His more significant associations included Charlie Spivak (1952-1954), Dave McKenna, Eddie Costa, and the ensembles of the Berklee College of Music and Woody Herman's Orchestra (1980). In the 1980s and '90s, Johnson (who revealed a Charlie Parker influence on alto) was often featured with Artie Shaw's part-time orchestra, taking the clarinet solos. Johnson led albums for EmArcy (1956), Riverside (1957), RFT (1971), Concord (three sets during 1979-1981), and North Star (1994). He continued recording into the 21st century, with Star Dust & Beyond: A Tribute to Artie Shaw appearing on Crazy Scot Records in 2005. Dick Johnson died in Boston on January 10, 2010 at the age of 84. ~ Scott Yanow