LOCAL Houston | The City Guide November 2016 - Page 40

THE JAZZ SINGER SONGBIRD JULIE JOHNSON SOARS By Lance Scott Walker | Photography by Anthony Rathbun In the 1980s, JULIE JOHNSON moved from her native Chicago, where she’d been singing, to Houston, where she stopped. Music took a backseat while she raised a family, attending soccer games and Boy Scout events instead of going into jazz clubs, and she focused on her career. “You know it’s totally disco, right? Everybody does it. The Women’s National Anthem. They all do it disco. Well, I do it like a swing, and I’ve also done it with a big band. It’s still got good drive and it’s still got a dance in it, but it’s a different kind of vibe because there’s a swing to it.” “My husband wanted to come here to get on the police force,” she said. “I was already with my cosmetic company, Mahogany Image, as a sales rep. I let them know I was going to be moving to Houston and they were like, ‘Perfect! We need an account exec in the Houston area.’ So, we moved here and have been here for 32 years. Along the way, I worked at Neiman’s as a rep for jeweler Michael Dawkins for seven years, and I still freelance for Guerlain and Chanel cosmetics. I left Chicago as an adult, but I really grew up in Houston.” In 2005, she released an album of jazz standards called Simply Julie, and has since been performing with a dance band called Spellbound and her own contemporary jazz ensemble, gracing the stages at jazz clubs, parties and private events. As for filling out her bands with members of Houston’s jazz community, she says, “I try to stay in a circle, a network of musicians that I work with that know my material or that are so professional and so strong with music that they can pick it up really quick. So far I’ve been really lucky. Great musicians here.” Julie found her way back into music in the ’90s, building a new repertoire of jazz standards and selections from the contemporary American songbook. But it was a different atmosphere. In Chicago, she’d sung with Bill McFarland & The Chicago Horns, playing the jazz clubs on North Michigan Avenue, and there was a lot of improvisation. In Houston, she found musicians who played by the book. Julie is putting the finishing touches on her second album, Julie II, and hopes to get out on the road. Her career path has already taken her through Japan, where she sang Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” and both last year and in 2006, she went to Paris: “I sang in some of the clubs there, and when you perform, you can drop a pin. They actually appreciate really good artists. They appreciate the arts, period.” She sees this album taking her back through Chicago. “And hopefully I’ll make some noise in the places wh \H[H[YH[X\YK'B'Z]HZ[]K8'HHZY 8'\H\[HY [X\H\H۝[Z]Hو] \H\HܙX]]]O'B]HYܚ]\ۈ[ [ܜܘ][ۙHSUHRT 8'H¸&\\x&H\H[x'JKHPH 8'HوH[]ۙK8'HH^\و8']\BX][HZx'JH[][ԒPHVSԸ&T8'H[\]K'B Hݙ[X\ M ˈY[H۸&]]H]YX\&\]H[[H[][YH]۞x&\܈H MۜX]]HYX\˚[YZۛ]KB