Primary Scene: Brooklyn/New York
Max Johnson is a bassist, composer and bandleader based in New York City. Known for his big sound, eclectic style and prolific output, Johnson has made a name in both the jazz and improvised music world, playing with legendary luminaries Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Muhal Richard Abrams, among others, in addition to becoming a first call bluegrass bassist, playing with legends Sam Bush, David Grisman, & the Traveling McCourys, as well as being a composer of chamber music that’s been performed by Mivos Quartet, and members of Bang on a Can, janus Trio and Ensemble Signal. With 9 albums, and over fifteen hundred concerts under his belt, Johnson has proven to be an unparalleled force on the bass, and a unique, exhilarating voice as a composer.
Growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey, Johnson learned about music at an early age from his father, Glenn Johnson, drummer/composer of the band Leisure Class. At age 13, Max took up the electric bass, and after performing with local bands in Montclair, NJ, he joined the School of Rock in 2004, where he had the incredible opportunity to tour internationally and perform with Jon Anderson, John Wetton, the Butthole Surfers, Adrian Belew, Vernon Reid, Andrew W.K., Ronnie Spector, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and a long list of others. Johnson then attended the New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music in 2008, where he studied bass with masters Henry Grimes, Mark Helias, Reggie Workman, Cameron Brown & Marji Danilow; and composition with Jane Ira Bloom, Tim Berne & Bill Kirchner. While studying there, he began performing professionally in New York City, building a name for himself as a bassist and bandleader in the improvised music world, and a first call bass player in the bluegrass scene. Johnson continued his education at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he recieved his Master’s degree in classical composition under Jonathan Bailey Holland, John Mallia and Roger Zahab.
Although young in age, Johnson has already crafted a unique sound and vision as an improviser, and is rich in experience, having performed and worked with John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Nels Cline, Candido Camero, Henry Grimes, William Parker, Butch Morris, Karl Berger, Bobby Sanabria, Sylvie Courvoisier, Erik Friedlander, Mary Halvorson, Joseph Jarman, Kenny Wollesen, Elliott Sharp, Angelica Sanchez, and many others. As a bassist with a non-stop touring schedule, Johnson has performed over one thousand concerts throughout North America and Europe, including top festivals and performing arts centers such as Lincoln Center, the United Nations, Lollapalooza, Quebec City Festival, Bern Jazz Festival, and many others. Max Johnson has been featured as a sideman on over twenty-five recordings, including the platinum-selling Night Castle by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
An active bandleader, Max Johnson has nine records to his name: Elevated Vegetation (FMR), The Invisible Trio & Something Familiar (Fresh Sound-New Talent), featuring Kirk Knuffke on cornet & Ziv Ravitz on drums; In the West (Clean Feed) featuring Kris Davis, Susan Alcorn and Mike Pride; The Prisoner (NoBusiness) featuring Ingrid Laubrock, Mat Maneri & Tomas Fujiwara; and Quartet (NotTwo), with Mark Whitecage on alto saxophone and clarinet, Steve Swell on trombone, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. As a collaborator, he has released Top of the Head (Minus Zero) with Perry Robinson & Diane Moser; Free Reservoir (Leo) with Simon Nabatov & Michael Sarin; and Big Eyed Rabbit (NotTwo) with Ross Martin and Jeff Davis. His albums have been positively reviewed in the New York Times, NYC Jazz Record, JazzTimes, and other publications. El Intruso International Critic’s Poll voted Max Johnson #1 Newcomer Musician in the 2012, and #2 Bassist and #4 Musician of the year in their 2014 poll.