…a trumpeter of keen sensitivities and questing spirit”

– Chicago Tribune

“…particularly Russ Johnson’s lyrical, deeply melodic trumpet lines—invariably lifts the music to another realm.”

Down Beat Magazine

“…the dude can play some serious trumpet”

Chicago Reader

“Trumpeter Russ Johnson has been all over the progressive jazz map. He’s been an A-list performer for several years.”

All  About Jazz

“the knockout quintet assembled by Milwaukee trumpeter Russ Johnson. Not only has Johnson immersed himself in the local Chicago scene, he’s maintained a diverse network of associates from his couple of decades spent in New York, as evidenced by his relationships with both saxophonist Jon Irabagon and pianist Mat Mitchell”

Chicago Reader

“Johnson plays a hard-swinging strain of postbop-brawny yet sophisticated, tartly melodic yet probing.”

Chicago Reader

“The effect of Johnson’s compositions was an almost instantaneous provocation of interest.”

The Examiner

“Leading his new Headlands band, Johnson offers a wide range of expression, from his brilliant opening fanfare to the lyricism listeners have come to expect from him.”

Chicago Tribune

“Long one of the best…postbop practitioners in New York.”

Chicago Reader

Praise for “Meeting Point”


“The exquisite balance between contrasting elements makes this an album to savor.”

Down Beat Magazine

“But one of the album’s ample pleasures is the way they engage with Johnson’s personal compositional approach, which emphasizes bold and catchy melodies, without abandoning their commitment to playing in more abstract zones. “

Down Beat Magazine

“…on Johnson’s Meeting Point the emphasis is on virtuosic soloing and highly responsive interaction bounded by a framework of sturdy melodies, with a sense of time that morphs organically between pungent swing and tumultuous free flow.”

Chicago Reader – Top 5 jazz records of 2015

“…Not even 24 hours before, the Russ Johnson Quartet were navigating through some of the most beautiful melodies I heard all weekend. In addition to his organic and inventive compositions, Johnson’s trumpet playing was out of this world. In fact, some of the musicians I was hanging out with were having difficulty identifying exactly how he was accomplishing what he was doing.”

Nextbop.com review of Meeting Point at the Chicago Jazz Festival

“The music and the group are top notch throughout, keeping you fixed to your seat. It really combines so many elements, but, it a coherent way.”

Cardboard Music

“Johnson and Stein artfully navigate the entire range of their instruments with ease and sophistication”

International Trumpet Guild

“Johnson and associates knock it out of the park on this fine outing.”

All About Jazz


Meeting Point Best Recordings of 2014 Lists

  • Down Beat Magazine  (+ 4 ½ star review)
  • Magnet Magazine
  • Chicago Reader
  • Acoustic Levitation
  • One Man’s Jazz
  • WMSE Radio
  • Music Corner with archive
  • Kevernacular Blog

Praise for Still Out to Lunch!


“Still Out To Lunch! is a roaring success.”

Down Beat Magazine 4 star review

“Each musician’s improvisations capture the essence of Dolphy’s opus, but in music located firmly in the here-and-now. And it’s that transparency, coupled to joyful expressiveness and Out To Lunch!’s open palette—indeed, the album’s requirement for playful improvisation—that makes Still Out To Lunch! such a treat.”

Down Beat Magazine 4 star review

Russ Johnson: “Still Out to Lunch!” (Enja/Yellowbird). “Trumpeter Johnson has spent years grappling with the music of Eric Dolphy’s admired album “Out to Lunch” and finally was able to document his experiments in this remarkable recording. In essence, Johnson and colleagues zero in on the lyric poetry and rhythmic volatility of this music, with inventive contributions from saxophonist Roy Nathanson, pianist Myra Melford, bassist Brad Jones and drummer George Schuller. Johnson and colleagues also augment the repertoire of the original recording, adding new dimensions to our understanding of it.”

– Chicago Tribune Best Jazz Recordings of 2014

“Johnson’s handsome sound and intense melodicism serve much the same purpose in today’s music. He can fly and flutter with the extended technique expected of modern players. But his stock in trade remains a buoyant, bracing lyricism, yields improvisations that light up new-music jams but would fit just as comfortably on a bebop date or in Lee Konitz’ Nonet.”


“Everything about this disc is excellent, from the sterling performances and arrangements to the great sound (production). A true jewel to be well savored.”

Downtown Music Gallery

“they deliver bracing, inspired performances.”

Chicago Reader

“A first class realization of a classic.”

Midwest Record

“With no doubt everyone takes a big risk working with such well-known material but Johnson and band demonstrate huge respect to original here. It’s not a competition with Dolphy and not an ambition to make some things better, but more modernized presentation of genius work.”

Jazz Music Archives

“No cheap nostalgia here; Johnson’s quintet blaze their own circuitous trails through the skeletal framework of the five Dolphy tunes which comprised Out to Lunch.”

WWUH Radio Best Jazz Recordings of 2014


Still Out to Lunch “Best Recordings of 2014” Lists

  • Chicago Tribune
  • AllAboutJazz
  • WWUH Radio
  • WMSE Radio
  • Down Beat Magazine (2015 + 4 star review)
  • Finalist for the Jahespreis in Jazz by Der Deutschen Schallplatten Kritik

Praise for In Circles


In Circles was featured in Down Beat Magazine’s “Best Recordings of 2012” list

“Despite drawing inspiration from the past, this is no retro trip. The frontline sounds thoroughly contemporary in its phrasing and timbre, while the rhythm section has a dazzling elasticity and a feel for color that’s also here and now.”

Down Beat Magazine 4 star review May 2012

“The tunes suggest an affinity for the golden era of hard-bop—with buoyant, bristling melodies and surging swing grooves”

Down Beat Magazine 4 star review May 2012

“..on this exciting disc, they sound like they’ve internalized a sense of mutual affinity all their own. In this (mostly) live session, their energetic dialogue turns into a constant exchange of tricky turns that never lose a potent sense of swing”

Down Beat Magazine “Editor’s Pick”  February 2012

“Surmounting the presumed conceptual gap between American and European jazz styles, In Circles balances forward-thinking interests with historically aware foundations, yielding a vibrant document of contemporary jazz.”

Point Of Departure March 2012

“Johnson’s brazen tone and Streiff’s resourceful bag of tricks translate into multifarious improvisational segments, dappled with exploratory persuasions. However, they prevent matters from getting out of hand, and strike a cogent balance between structure, melody, counterpoint and offsetting storylines throughout the program”


“It’s an album that also offers a compelling equation of temperance and tension.”


“In Circles” is a top-shelf product, casting a mark of authenticity unlike similar outings within these settings by others, often built on pure cacophony or a total disregard for melody.


“Almost the first reference point that springs to mind upon hearing In Circles is the classic Ornette Coleman quartet from the early Atlantic sides. There is the same loose conversational jousting between alto sax and trumpet, the same folk jazz melodic bent and above all the same sense of playful fun. In fact, alluring interplay promoted by thoughtful arrangements characterizes this first album from the quartet of Swiss saxophonist Co Streiff and Brooklyn-based trumpeter Russ Johnson.”

New York Jazz Record


“In Circles” was also reviewed in many European publications