As a member of jazz great Miles Davis’ band, multi-instrumentalist Deron Johnson finally had found the father figure that had been missing from his life.
When Davis died in September 1991 of a stroke and pneumonia, Johnson felt empty again.
“I didn’t know how to react to the news,” Johnson said recently. “It wasn’t until I got to the memorial in New York and they started showing on the big screen footage of us playing in his last days, it took me out. I definitely had some tears at that point.
“Miles, for me, was sort of becoming that father figure that so many of us didn’t have, including me. He also was a music guru, and I thought, ‘Wow, man, I can get both in one.’ I thought I was going to have at least five more years of playing with him.”
Instead, Johnson used the invaluable experience working with Davis to his benefit, forming Behan Johnson with singer-songwriter Monica Behan. Their self-titled debut RCA album was released in October and the video for the first single, “World Keeps Spinning,” has popped up on VH1.
The album’s eclecticism, fusing pop, soul, folk, funk and jazz, is right up Davis’ alley. Johnson said his taste for many musical styles came from keeping a watchful eye on the legendary jazz trumpeter.
“Watching him night after night lead the band, it was amazing how he knew what everybody was doing at all times. He knew how to work the crowd,” Johnson said. “Just when you thought he wasn’t paying attention to what you were doing, after the gig he’d say something in reference to a certain song that he didn’t like. More than anything, he taught me to really be all ears.”
The album is an excellent starting point to grow on, Johnson said.
“The response we’ve been getting, it’s been amazingly positive,” he said. “I’m feeling that it’s going to do really well, and it’ll get us out there, as two people who just want to make music and let people know how we feel. I just want the opportunity to do that and play live.”