born November 25, 1960
For over three decades, drummer Steve Johns has been a major presence on the jazz scene, collaborating with many of the music’s most renowned practitioners, including Nat Adderley, Stanley Turrentine, Larry Coryell, Randy Brecker, Ronnie Cuber, Jimmy Owens, Dr. Billy Taylor, Benny Carter, Thomas Chapin and Sonny Fortune.
Steve Johns was born into a musical family and began playing drums at the age of nine. His mother, Goldie Tyler Johns, was a songwriter, and three of her brothers were saxophonists, including the legendary Jimmy Tyler, who was Steve’s primary influence and inspiration. It was Jimmy who encouraged the youngster to study formally with Alan Dawson, and his three years with the master percussionist and educator enabled him to make rapid progress.
After high school, Steve continued his studies at the New England Conservatory of Music where he received a thorough grounding in classical percussion from Vic Firth and Fred Buda, while playing with such local jazz greats as James Williams, Miroslav Vituous, Jeff Berlin and Mike Stern.
Over the ensuing three decades, Steve has worked in every conceivable setting, from big bands such as the Gil Evans and the Count Basie orchestras, to accompanying singers like Jessye Norman, Helen Merrill, Diane Schuur and Dakota Staton. Steve played with the late great saxophonist Thomas Chapin and his Trio along with bassist Mario Pavone. He has toured worldwide as the regular drummer for Sonny Fortune, Benny Carter, Dr. Billy Taylor, and many other luminaries. His five-year tenure as a member of Taylor’s trio brought him wide exposure, including 75 performances for the pianist’s NPR program Jazz at the Kennedy Center with such guests as Wynton Marsalis, Nancy Wilson, Milt Jackson, and Randy Brecker.
In addition to his work as a sideman, Steve is also a member of the collective group Native Soul, and has been co-leader on recording projects by that group.
Steve has long been active as an educator. While with the Billy Taylor Trio, he took part in over a hundred lecture/demonstrations throughout the U.S., and has regularly served on the faculty for educational programs at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Long Island University, Montclair State University, the Litchfield Jazz Camp, the Vermont Jazz Center, and Jazz House Kids. Steve and his wife Debbie co-direct the JCC Thurnauer TeenTown Jazz Program in Tenafly, NJ, which has featured such guests as Larry Coryell, Bernie Williams and Jimmy Owens.
Steve's playing can be heard on many of jazzleadsheets.com's exclusive Minus You tracks alongside his son, bassist Daryl Johns, who was in his early teens on many of these recordings. A nine-year-old Daryl Johns is featured in the cover photo of Native Soul's 2005 debut album "Rough Jazz"; the liner notes mention that he was already playing at that age.