Gabriel Johnson originally from Salinas, California, attended Boston’s prestigious New England Conservatory of Music. While there he studied under the tutelage of jazz greats Steve Lacy, Danilo Perez, George Garzone, John McNeil and Bob Moses. However, his greatest musical influence was his grandmother who always preached to him the importance of the arts and, most importantly, jazz.
After completing his education in Boston, Gabriel decided to return to his California roots where he has been very active in the studio scene. Gabriel has played or recorded with a wide variety of musicians and bands, including Blood Sweat and Tears, Gladys Knight, Steven Tyler, Leann Rimes, Trombone Shorty, David Foster, Jill Scott, Diddy, Skylar Grey, Faith Evans, Gerald Albright, Dave Koz, Johnny Mathis, Kyle Eastwood, Vince Gill, Andrea Bocelli, Chris Botti, Mindi Abair, Paula Cole, Lyle Lovett, Keb Mo, M83, B.o.B. and Burt Bacharach.
A turning point came in 2007, when Clint Eastwood called upon Gabriel to be the featured soloist with orchestra on his Golden Globes nominated score to Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie. Eastwood, once a trumpet player himself, said that Johnson “plays like a singer.” This was a bit of a full circle moment for Johnson, since as a child he grew up not too far from Clint’s home in Carmel, California. He says, “I had heard about his love of music while I was growing up, so to be standing there playing the trumpet, his favorite instrument, on a movie he directed, with him sitting 5 feet from me in the room was exciting and humbling at the same time.” Following the success of the Changeling soundtrack, Eastwood once again called upon Johnson to be the soloist in his Nelson Mandela biopic Invictus, which was released in theaters in December of 2009.
In September of 2012, Gabriel released his first solo album “Introducing Gabriel Johnson,” which blended his trumpet sound with the sounds of modern jazz and hip-hop. In the week leading up to the release of Introducing, Gabriel was also featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno as the guest soloist with legendary Tenor Placido Domingo.
Gabriel’s main passion, without any doubt, is playing live. “I’m really proud of the band I have assembled, with some truly world-class musicians who really help make the live show a great experience not only for me as the band leader, but for the audience as well. We really have fun up there, and aren’t afraid to show the audience that we are so grateful to them for being there. More than anything, I just hope that when people come and hear us play they walk away feeling better than when they arrived, want to come hear us again, and know that I am grateful for their ears and their time. That, after all, is why I do what I do.”