Dewey Johnson (musician)

Dewey Bernard Johnson (November 6, 1939 – June 26, 2018) was an American free jazz trumpeter best known for his appearance on John Coltrane's historic recording Ascension.[1]

Dewey Johnson
Birth nameDewey Bernard Johnson
Born(1939-11-06)November 6, 1939
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US
DiedJune 26, 2018(2018-06-26) (aged 78)
GenresJazz, free jazz, avant-garde jazz
Associated actsJohn Coltrane, Paul Bley, Rashied Ali, Paul Murphy

Early lifeEdit

Johnson was born in Philadelphia, where he took lessons at the Granoff School of Music.[2] In the early 1960s, he spent time in California, where he met and played with Byron Allen, Noah Howard, Sonny Simmons, and other musicians interested in free improvisation.[2][3]

New YorkEdit

In 1963, Johnson moved to New York, where he played with Sun Ra[4] and started a band with saxophonist Giuseppi Logan, bassist Reggie Johnson and drummer Rashied Ali.[1] In 1964, Johnson participated in the historic "October Revolution in Jazz", a four-day music festival organized by trumpeter Bill Dixon,[5] and also joined pianist Paul Bley’s group. The following year, he appeared on Bley's album Barrage.[2] Johnson also played with saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Marion Brown[6] and repeatedly sat in with John Coltrane's band.[1] Eventually Coltrane invited him to participate in the recording of Ascension, on which he takes the second solo, following Coltrane and preceding Sanders.[1][7]

In the spring of 1967, Johnson played in the Rashied Ali Quintet, recordings of which were released more than fifty years later.[8] Following Coltrane's death in July of that year, Johnson suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized.[1] After dropping out of the music scene for a few years and living as a homeless person, Johnson joined a collective improvisation group known as The Music Ensemble, which also featured drummer Roger Baird, violinist Billy Bang, trumpeter Malik Baraka, saxophonist Daniel Carter, and bassists Earl Freeman and William Parker,[9] and began to support himself with various odd jobs.[7][1]

Later lifeEdit

In the early 1980s, while working at Ali’s Alley, a club run by Rashied Ali, Johnson met and formed a trio with drummer Paul Murphy and pianist Mary Anne Driscoll. The group frequently performed in lofts and, supplemented by saxophonist Jimmy Lyons and bassoonist Karen Borca, recorded two albums.[1] In 1984, Johnson again fell on hard times and became homeless. He later lived at the Coler Specialty Hospital on Roosevelt Island in New York City. He died in 2018.[1]


With John Coltrane

With Paul Bley

With Paul Murphy

  • Red Snapper: Paul Murphy At CBS (CIMP, recorded 1982, released 2003)
  • Cloudburst: Paul Murphy at RCA (Murphy Records, recorded and released 1983)

With Rashied Ali

  • First Time Out: Live at Slugs 1967 (Survival Records, recorded 1967, released 2020)


  • Fire Music, Vol. 1: A High Energy Avant Garde Jazz Compilation (ESP-Disk, 2012 re-release of a track from Paul Bley's album Barrage)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Crépon, Pierre (July 2018). "The Alphabet Of Dewey Johnson 1939–2018". The Wire. Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Kennedy, Gary (2002). "Johnson, Dewey". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.J605800.
  3. ^ Palomo, Julien; Chaloin, Marc. "The Sonny Simmons Story: Chapter 2: Music Matador (1963)". Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  4. ^ Jurek, Thom. "Paul Bley Trio / Paul Bley: Closer". Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  5. ^ Jost, Ekkehard (1974). Free Jazz. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 84.
  6. ^ Jones, Leroi (1968). Black Music. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 123. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ a b Such, David (1993). Avant-Garde Jazz Musicians: Performing "Out There". Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. p. 132.
  8. ^ Beta, Andy. "Duo Exchange: Complete Sessions". Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  9. ^ Such, David (1993). Avant-Garde Jazz Musicians: Performing "Out There". Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. p. 125.