Mourning for tuba virtuoso, 79

Mourning for tuba virtuoso, 79


norman lebrecht

January 13, 2021

The New York tuba maestro Howard Johnson has died at 79 of an undisclosed cause.

He played with Charles Mingus and Gil Evans and accompanied James Taylor on Sesame Street.

In the 1970s he conducted the band on Saturday Night Live.



  • Barry Guerrero says:

    He also played tuba with Taj Mahal. Most folks would have seen him as the baritone sax player on the Saturday Night Live band. He also played the rare bass sax (used mostly in trad jazz).

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Thanks, Barry, all true.
      HJ was a phenomenal musician in a lot of genres.
      Have fun on the other side, Howard!

  • Ilio says:

    Toby Hanks, another tuba great has also passed away.

  • Bill says:

    RIP to a great artist. I saw him live about 20 years ago when I was a student at Stanford Jazz Workshop. You know jazz is a tough field to make it where you have to learn a second instrument (the bari sax in this particular concert) to compliment being the only famous jazz tubist.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Doesn’t Roger Bobo also play jazz, Bill?

      • Barry Guerrero says:

        Jim Self in L.A. is an excellent jazz improviser on tuba. He has several very good jazz albums. I think the closest Bobo ever got was playing Fred Tacket’s “Yellow Bird”. But I believe the solos that Roger played on the record (Crystal Records) were written out. I saw Bobo play “Yellowbird” at a recital he did at the Topanga Canyon Tavern in 1975.

  • Brian Egan says:

    He was also, famously, a member of the brass section backing The Band on their double album “Rock of Ages”, recorded live in New York at the turn of the New Year 1971-72. Howard Johnson played baritone sax, tuba and euphonium, on arrangements by Allen Toussaint. The album remains one of the very best live rock and roll records ever made.
    Brian Egan