Desert Island Jazz
Nat Johnson (2009)

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Transplanted during WW II to the Bay Area from his Houston, Texas, birthplace, Nat Johnson grew up in Marin City, and attended Tamalpais High School in Marin City. Tutored on violin, he taught himself bass in time for a Spring concert, and so successful was he that he was able to play professionally straight after graduation.

Jazz was just one of the genres Nat played, the list of others including bluegrass, Dixieland, C&W, R&B, and folk. In fact, it was during regular gigs as part of the Israeli folk group Meridian West at The Trident in Sausalito that he met, first, Martin Luther King jr, and later director Peter Yates. The former meeting has informed Nat's life, and the latter led to his appearance in the 1968 movie "Bullitt", starring Steve McQueen (Nat didn't get to drive the Thunderbird, though). Soon afterwards, Nat appeared on screen again, this time in commercials for Miller beer.

Folk music may have led to a movie role, and TV commercials may have paid some bills, but Nat always came back to jazz, and over the years he's appeared with Jon Hendricks, Sammy Davis jr, Big Mama Thornton, Lou Rawls, Dizzy Gillespie, among others.

Nat always takes careful note of advice from those he respects. It was the "Boss of the Walking Bass", Leroy Vinegar who encouraged Nat to continue with the bass: as Nat himself recalls, Leroy told him "you continue to play ... the roots, and keep the tempo, and you'll work more than anybody else ... and he was correct." And it was the pianist Smith Dobson jr who suggested that Nat sing, a talent he continues to develop. Contrary to the tongue-in-cheek message of the song "It's Impossible to Sing and Play the Bass", Nat Johnson does exactly that.
Pick Artist Album Song Label
# 1 Larry Vuckvich featuring Jon Hendricks Reunion Shorty Indigo (Tetrachord)
# 2 John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman My One and Only Love (Impulse)
# 3 Sarah Vaughan Gold Send in the Clowns (Verve)
# 4 Weather Report Heavy Weather Birdland (Columbia)
# 5 Carmen McRae Carmen Sings Monk You Know Who (Bluebird)
# 6 James Taylor Sweet Baby James Fire and Rain (Warner Bros)
# 7 Joe Pass and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen Chops Yardbird Suite (Pablo)
# 8 Shirley Horn Here's to Life Here's to Life (Verve)
# 9 Nina Simone In Concert/I Put a Spell on You Ne Me Quitte Pas (Mercury)
# 10 Mahalia Jackson Mahalia Jackson, Vol. 2 The Lord's Prayer (Columbia)
Book "Monastic Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast"
Luxury Item "My bass"
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