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Jeff Johnson (musician)

Jeff Johnson (born 1956) is a recording artist, composer and producer who has released numerous solo and collaborative recordings. Stemming from a progressive-rock background, he works within a contemporary artistic-Christian framework, and precedes much of the new-age music to which much of his music would later be compared. He has made collaborations with various other establish musicians, including Sandy Simpson, Brian Dunning, and Phil Keaggy. His works also include collaborations with contemporary author Stephen Lawhead.

Jeff Johnson
Background information
Origin Camano Island, Island County, Washington, United States
Genres Progressive rock, Celtic
Years active 1980 – Present
Labels Ark Records
Associated acts Sandy Simpson, Brian Dunning, Phil Keaggy.
Website Ark Records

Born in the Portland, Oregon area, he currently resides in the San Juan Islands in the state of Washington, United States.

In addition to recording, Johnson is active in the ongoing Selah Service music and contemplative worship events, featuring music, readings from the Psalms and silent prayer. [1]


Vocal RecordingsEdit

Johnson’s early vocal recordings were stylistically progressive rock. The lyrics were inspired by a diverse group of authors, artists and historical figures including CS Lewis, Charles Williams, George MacDonald, Blaise Pascal, Francis Schaeffer, Tom Stoppard, William Shakespeare, Auguste Rodin, Paul Gaugin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Ludwig II of Bavaria.

His first recording efforts, The Anvil Of God's Word and Please Forgive Us, Lord were recorded in 1976, when he was a "young teenager" [1] and were never officially released on CD. After many years, they were made available on a CD entitled Early Songs as part of the ArkMusic Special Editions series.[2]

His first studio album, Face of the Deep (1980) managed to conjure aural landscapes in the ears of his listeners with his synthesizer infused progressive rock renditions of fantasy works. The album begins with the pensive image of Rodin's The Thinker. Songs are inspired by writings such as Charles Williams' [[All Hallows' Eve]], and by the paintings of Gauguin and Renoir's The Moulin de la Galette. Johnson completes his treatment of these aural landscapes with on-location recordings of atmospheric sounds such as rain storms and creaking gates - incorporating them into the music in an artful way (see: History - 'Ark Mobile').

On his second album, he collaborated with Sandy Simpson to record Through the Door (1982), which took up the theme of spiritual quest inspired by the novels of George MacDonald (The Golden Key). It also continued the use of synthesizers in the slightly sci-fi themed song, The Jupiter Effect. It was also on this album that Johnson first recorded his personal 'theme' - 'Someday someday' — a song he would record in several versions throughout his discography.

Johnson continued the theme of the spiritual quest on albums such as: Fallen Splendour and Pilgrimage. Incorporating influences from several of the Inklings, including a song inspired by C.S. LewisDream of the Island (Similitudes).

His more recent vocal works are more liturgically inspired. Lyrics include passages from the Biblical Psalms as well as prayers by early Irish saints Columba and Patrick as well as Teresa of Ávila and Francis of Assisi.

Instrumental RecordingsEdit

Johnson’s instrumental releases cover a broad spectrum of Celtic, New Age, Jazz and World Music genres.

His collaborations with Irish flutist, Brian Dunning, include music inspired by the stories of Stephen R. Lawhead as well as a series of Celtic Christmas releases which were licensed by Windham Hill for that label’s Winter Solstice and Celtic Christmas compilations.

He also collaborated on several releases with Portland, Oregon bassist, David Friesen and additional releases with world-renowned guitarist, Phil Keaggy.

Breadth of work and collaborationsEdit

Johnsons's music has been dubbed 'intelligent pop', 'new age', and 'jazz lite' — but he is quick to point out that his records have nothing to do with the New Age movement. "I was doing my style of music before anybody was talking about the New Age Movement."

— Bob Longman Jr[2]

Johnson is a versatile musician, using sounds ranging from progressive rock with soaring synthesizers to acoustic Oregon double-bass and contemporary piano solos. Johnson has collaborated in a number of distinct projects over the course of his career, including: Instrumental fantasy, Celtic and sci-fi inspired works.

Although his career started with tones of pop progressive rock, his music has taken on a more serious note since. Sample any of his 50 albums that he has recorded and sold through Ark Records, and you’ll hear hints of Irish folk, modern pop, jazz, mystical world music, and historical Christmas tunes. He’s recorded concept albums based on Stephen Lawhead books, ancient prayers, and iconic figures. All of this variety isn’t just to be clever; rather it’s a celebration of the many nuances that good music can absorb.

— David Rupert (2013)[3]

There is thought and purpose behind every note here that makes you feel like you are seeing different shades of nature while floating along a river.

— Matt Crosslin, Review of Water Sky[4]

Reviewer David Rupert recounts, "Johnson produced an album of original music for Mercedes Benz, titled Rhythms of the Road. The company included a CD with every new car sold. He was contacted by a car owner who totaled her Mercedes, with Johnson's CD stuck in the player. 'She was more upset about losing her CD than losing her car'. Johnson sent her another copy."[3]

Through his career, Johnson has collaborated with a diverse range of artists and musicians. In 1991, he played with Derri Daugherty (The Choir); jazz players David Friesen and Dave Hagelganz; rock drummer Mark Schulman; and flutist Brian Dunning on the album Great Romantics.

In 1997, working with classical singer Janet Chvatal, who performs Latin chant on the album 'Psalmus'.

In 2002, he contributed an original tune with Brian Dunning on the Gangs of New York (soundtrack), alongside artists such as Peter Gabriel.

In 2009, he contributed the track "Heaven's Door" for Eckhart Tolle's Music to Quiet the Mind.

More recently, he appeared with Phil Keaggy on the instrumental albums Frio Suite (2009), and Water Sky (2012) - chosen for the 25 Essential Echoes CDs: The Best of 2012.[5]

Ark RecordsEdit

Ark Records publishes both Jeff Johnson's catalogue of albums, and those of a few musical associates.

Jeff Johnson produced music since his early teens, and started Ark Records in "a small studio in our house with a friend back in 1977"[6] (Tigard, Oregon). Since then, Ark Records has produced and distributed over 50 albums, and gained international recognition and distribution.

Around 1998, he moved Ark Records to Camano Island, WA, where he currently resides.

Discography (partial)Edit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Page 2 of Jeff Johnson: A mysterious intellectual doing intelligent pop - Jeff Johnson". 1991-06-01. Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
  3. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-21. Retrieved 2013-01-18. 
  4. ^ "Jeff Johnson & Phil Keaggy – WaterSky – Down The Line Reviews". 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
  5. ^ "25 Essential Echoes CDs: The Best of 2012 | The Echoes Blog". 2012-12-27. Retrieved 2016-11-29. 
  6. ^ "CD/DVD Reviews". Retrieved 2016-11-29. 

External linksEdit