about eric johnsen

eric johnsen portrait

Eric Johnsen is a composer based in Tucson, Arizona. Trained in both jazz and orchestral realms, Eric’s music bridges the two in a way that is aesthetically rich and challenging, yet totally accessible; cerebral but deeply passionate. He has completed Liminality, a major work that will comprise his first CD, and is currently finalizing preparations to record it in New York City in the summer of 2018 with a specially assembled ensemble of extraordinary world-renowned musicians.

Eric was born in Eureka, California, but was raised mostly in Tucson, Arizona. Eric began studying music as a child with his father, and after joining the local community college big band at age 13 jazz had become his focus. Through his early friendship and collaboration with the talented (and acclaimed) Redhouse family—Eric’s musical horizons were further expanded, most notably into the fusion scene developing in the 1970s, as well as the new music coming out on Manfred Eicher’s ECM label. Many other international artists would continue to inspire Eric to honor his jazz traditions while at the same time seeking new directions in tonality, rhythm, and structure. But it was through the discovery of 20th century orchestral and chamber works that gave Eric a true glimpse of what was musically possible. And a new course was charted.

After several years of serious training and playing professionally—first on trumpet, and eventually moving into piano—Eric discovered composition as his true musical calling, and proceeded to follow in his father’s footsteps. Eric attended the University of Arizona, where he studied composition with Dan Asia, and furthered his jazz studies with Jeff Haskell. He also availed himself of the university’s recording studio, where he began his first excursions into sound production. With the invaluable support and assistance from engineer Wiley Ross, Eric had the opportunity to work with top musicians such as Aliéksey Vianna, Carl Cherry II, Jervonny Collier, Larry Redhouse, Mary Redhouse, Doug Martin, Todd Hammes, Robin Horn, and others. He later composed and produced a score for a short film, and had one of his pieces selected to be on Billy Taylor’s CD Fiesta in Tucson (in collaboration with the U of A jazz program).

After getting a degree in music composition (along with a second major in history), Eric went on to become a public school teacher, while writing and producing music on the side in his modest studio. When not engaged in his teaching duties, Eric has endeavored to explore the musical spaces between jazz and chamber, consonance and dissonance, improvisation and composition. At last Eric is ready to share these explorations, and produce his first CD, Liminality.