Richard Leo Johnson Trio
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Richard Leo Johnson Trio

Band Folk Avant-garde


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The best kept secret in music


"Richard Leo Johnson"

"(Johnson) developed a whole lexicon of expression on the instrument that defies conventional wisdom…It's the calling card of an intuitive genius."

- Bill Milkowski, Jazz Times

"Fingertip Ship Review"

"His whiplash dexterity, fuels the tension that, allows his songs to build where others merely blather." - David Okamoto, Dallas Morning News


"A singularity most performers only dream of." - Jim Macnie, Guitar Magazine

"Language Review"

"A remarkable guitarist, with a musical curiosity comparable to that of the most envelope-stretching jazz experimentalist." - Don Heckman, LA. Times

"Richard Leo Johnson"

"Johnson is to new age fluff what the Boston Strangler was to neck massage." - John D'Agostino, Wood & Steel


"...the most innovative guitarist since Jimi Hendrix. Johnson is a one man guitar orchestra."
- Vic Garbarini, Playboy

"fingertip ship"

Fingertip Ship resounds with more power, passion and beauty than most solo guitar albums. It's the calling card of an intuitive genius. - jazz times

"impossible guitars"

Think of Johnson as a hothouse guitarist. Self-taught, he's devised a whirlwind approach to solo acoustic guitar and a set of tunings largely on his own. Working with a double-necked 12-string, he needs no accompaniment, playing bass parts as well as percussion (on the guitar's body). - Down Beat

"richard leo johnson"

"Guitar music's best kept secret..."

--Andrew Miller, - Pitch Weekly, Kansas City

"richard leo johnson"

"Even when we are wowed by the technique or touched by the passion, there are few steel string guitar soloists who can hold our attention for an entire album...add to that short list Richard Leo Johnson."

- --A.P. Wire Service


Language. Blue Note, 2001
Fingertip Ship. Blue Note, 1998


Feeling a bit camera shy


Touted by Playboy magazine as "the most innovative guitarist since Jimi Hendrix," Richard Leo Johnson's style is marked by startling speed, complexity and hauntingly unfamiliar harmonies. His new project brings together a powerful combination of instrumentalists, creating a new and distinctive musical terrain. The Richard Leo Johnson Trio fuses elements of rock and folk music with the sensibilities of classical color and structure, reflecting an eclectic, modern outlook on chamber music. With the collaboration of classically trained musicians Andrew Ripley (wind and electronics) and Ricardo A. Ochoa (strings and theremin), Richard Leo Johnson brings fresh new focus to his own brand of instrumental poetry.

Richard Leo Johnson has been discovering the guitar since age nine when he received his only "formal" musical education from a beer-swilling south Arkansas oil field worker who played Monkees records and chided his young student for playing too fast.

Undeterred, Johnson withdrew to his room and began learning for himself what could be done with a guitar. At age 11 he discovered the 12-string and was off on a musical career that would eventually see him hailed as "a dragon-slayer on the frontiers of acoustic music."

In the absence of preconceptions, he experimented with options for producing sound with a guitar. Things music students learn as absolutes were both problems and possibilities to Johnson. Take tuning, for example. "I closed myself in my room and made my own rules. That's why I don't use standard guitar tuning." Johnson explains. Today he uses about 30 alternate tunings in his repertoire. Decades immersed in solitary experimentation (Johnson is now in his mid-forties) have created a unique guitar style based on possibilities rather than limitations.

On his first major label CD, Fingertip Ship, a 1998 Blue Note release, Johnson did just that. The solo record introduced him as a talent music critics hailed as "a one-man guitar orchestra" and "a Paganini in blue jeans." Recording took just a day and a half.

One of the songs on Fingertip Ship, "Jaco Morocco," a tribute to bassist Jaco Pastorious, features a tuning "invented" by Johnson's daughter Tess when she was fooling around with his guitar. That incident exemplifies Johnson as a guitarist and a person. Where another musician might have freaked out on finding the guitar out of tune, Johnson seized the opportunity and wrote a song.

Language, Johnson's second and most recent Blue Note CD, richens the musical mix with a wide range of other artists including Paul McCandless on oboe, English horn and soprano saxophone, Andy Reinhardt on accordion, Warren Haynes on slide guitar, Glen Moore on acoustic bass, Reggie Washington on electric bass. Matt Wilson on drums, Cyro Baptista on percussion and James "The Worm" Wormworth on washboard. The musicians received recordings of Johnson's guitar tracks and were invited to "play along." Daughter Tess also joins him on her cello in a short duet. The album has been well received.

Rhythm has always captured Johnson's imagination. The acoustic guitar's hollow body is "percussive" Johnson notes, and he takes full advantage, slapping and thumping to add yet another dimension to an already improbably thick mixture.

With his maverick style, Johnson has proven hard for the music world to categorize, leading to bizarre hybrid descriptions like "neo-folk-jazz." Attempts at pigeonholing him in terms of the past seem doomed to failure. In the shadow of centuries of musical tradition, Johnson is looking to the future and the discovery of new possibilities, new ways to make a "racket" with his guitar.

The fifth child to two bagpipers on a sheep farm in rural Minnesota, Andrew began his instrumental music studies with the bagpipe and the oboe.  He attended the Juilliard School where he was privileged to study music with oboist John Ferrillo and conductor Otto Werner-Mueller.  The year 2000 brought Andrew to Savannah with the intention of playing the symphonic repertoire for the rest of his days.
In search of broader musical horizons, he and some similarly searching colleagues created Savannah's Soundshorts series as a learning ground for composition, arranging, and improvisation.  He quickly found the attraction to chamber music life, co-founding the contemporary ensemble ARTillery Punch.  
A skilled multi-instrumentalist performing on wind synthesizer, melodica, oboe and English horn, Andrew performs a variety of roles within the Trio.

Ricardo began his classical music training at an early age.  Influenced by his father (a professional classical guitarist) and mother (a psychologist), Ricardo proceeded with an analytical career in music.  He completed a degree in performance from the Aaron Copland School on Music, Queens College, NY, and a Masters degree from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA.  His teach