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Positive Vibrations HeartBeat Award (Culture Bearer): Clarence Johnson III

“I’m not necessarily just trying to play music, I’m using music to imitate life,” says the ever-soulful and spiritual saxophonist Clarence Johnson III. “Guys like Wayne Shorter, they’ll go in the backyard and listen to the hummingbirds because everything around you is music. That holistic philosophy and thought is not just how I play music, it’s how I live my life.”

A native of New Orleans, Johnson, 43, hit this city’s modern jazz scene as a teenager impressing listeners with his already individualistic sound. Actually, by that time, Johnson had been blowing sax for quite a while, beginning on alto in grade school, adding tenor while performing in the marching, concert and stage bands at Brother Martin High School and later taking up the soprano while attending Loyola University.

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