|Jeff Johnson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 12, 1954. At 17 years of age, veteran saxophonist Irv Williams hired Jeff, for a seven nights a week gig, which lasted 2 & 1/2 years. He played with some of the best musicians in the area. "Irv Williams taught me all these beautiful standards." At age 20 Jeff left the Midwest to join Philly Joe Jones and his group Le Grand Prix.|
Jeff has lived in Atlanta, Miami, Oklahoma City, San Diego, Austin, and Los Angeles. During his travels, Jeff has played with a veritable who's who of great jazz musicians. He played with house bands backing touring single artists such as Charlie Rouse, Barney Kessell, Chet Baker, and Lew Tabackin to concerts and club dates with Eddie Daniels and the Austin Symphony, Mark Murphy, Joanne Brackeen, Julian Priester, Jerry Hahn, Billy Hart, Bob Moses, Kenny Drew Jr., Annie Ross, George Cables, Bud Shank, Claudio Roditti, and Ernestine Anderson.
In 1990 Jeff moved to Seattle where he resided for a decade and became the main on ¬call bassist in the area. In 1991 Jeff met pianist Jessica Williams. He has played on six of her albums to date. In 1993 Jeff joined pianist Hal Galper and has toured and recorded six albums with Hal and Dick Oatts, Jerry Bergonzi, Ira Sullivan, Hal Crook, Mel Martin, Gary Foster, Franco Ambrosetti, Peter King, Tim Hagans, Steve Grossman, and Walt Weiskopf.
Jeff has released 5 CD's as leader. Most notable is his trio CD (titled for his nickname) "Free". JazzTimes says in its review of ''Free'' "Bassist Johnson is admired for his work with modem mainstream musicians...” Jazz Now says, ''Johnson's a shadow boxer who doesn't support a soloist as much as he challenges him". And Cadence says "Still, it is Johnson who captures your attention without being obvious. His bass lines are clear and distinct. He plays with a mystique that takes the music out of the ordinary with his inventive improvised lines, yet he maintains control at all times." In 2004 his latest trio recording “Near Earth” won the Earshot award for best outside group of the year.