Kris Johnson is an award-winning jazz trumpeter, composer, and educator. He has appeared on an impressive list of albums including two Grammy-nominated releases: Tony Bennett’s “A Swingin’ Christmas” and Karen Clark Sheard’s “All In One”. Kris is a trumpeter and arranger with the Count Basie Orchestra. In 2013 he was featured in the standup-comedy film “Make Me Wanna Holla” starring Sinbad.
Currently, Kris Johnson is the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Utah. Kris received his master’s (2007) and bachelor’s (2005) degrees in Jazz Studies from Michigan State University. In 2012, Kris received an ASCAP Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers award and was selected as one of 25 Detroit performing and literary artists to receive a Kresge Artist Fellowship.
Mr. Johnson has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious jazz venues including the Apollo Theater, the Blue Note Jazz Club (US and Japan), Sydney Opera House, Blues Alley, and the Hollywood Bowl. He has also had the opportunity to perform with many jazz greats including Tony Bennett, Patti Austin, Wess Anderson, Wycliffe Gordon, Jon Hendricks, Monty Alexander, Christian McBride, Jamie Cullum, and many others. He has recorded on three albums with the Count Basie Orchestra including a 2015 Christmas album with Concord Records that features his arrangement of “Let It Snow” with soloist Ellis Marsalis.
Drawing from jazz, classical, hip-hop, and neo-soul, Kris’s writing creates diverse textures that represent his unique musical identity. He has composed several large-scale works for jazz and orchestral ensembles including Jim Crow’s Tears (musical for 6 ensemble members and a jazz orchestra), A Journey Through a Dream (jazz ensemble and string quartet commissioned by the Arts League of Michigan), and Odd Expressions (jazz ensemble and symphony orchestra commissioned by Troy High School). His arrangements have been performed and/or recorded by the Count Basie Orchestra, Karen Clark Sheard, Yolanda Adams, the Clark Sisters, Farmington Community Band, the Motor City Brass Band, Detroit Symphony’s Civic Jazz Ensembles, and many others. He is also the exclusive copyist for composer and trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon.
Johnson has a keen sensitivity to the nuances of film as is evident in his award-winning film scores for various webseries, documentaries, short films, and a feature film. He received an Outstanding Score award for his work on the comedic web series The PuNanny Diaries at the 2011 LA Webfest.
Kris was a full time faculty member at The Ohio State University from 2012 – 2015 serving as a jazz lecturer. He is also the former director of Detroit Symphony’s Civic Jazz Orchestra where he lead the most talented students in Metro Detroit. Johnson has also served as a Jazz Artist in Residence at Troy High School, Southfield-Lathrup High School, Eaton Rapids High School, and is the writer and co-creator of The Learning Express, a series of workshops that use hip-hop and jazz to teach elementary students about science, reading, and math.
Photo courtesy of Mark Morden