1995 32¢ James P. Johnson
Issue Date: September 16, 1995
City: Monterey, CA
Printed By: Sterling Sommers for Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: 11.1 x 11
James P. Johnson, one of America’s most noted jazz artists, was born February 1, 1894, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Studying music as a child, he went on to play in local bands, and eventually toured Europe with the group Plantation Days. An innovative figure in American music, he combined elements of ragtime, blues, dance rhythms, and classical music to create the distinctive jazz piano style known as Harlem stride piano. Characterized by great rhythmic and harmonic development, often involving 10-note chords, this style creates a full, powerful sound. As the “father of stride piano,” Johnson strongly influenced such jazz greats as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Fats Waller.
Johnson’s ability to compose made him unique among his contemporaries. He wrote the scores for at least 16 musical shows during the 1920s. It was out of his 1923 Broadway production Runnin’ Wild that the tune and dance usually identified with the decade came – the Charleston. Many of his recordings have become jazz standards, including “If I Could Be With You,” “Snowy Morning Blues,” and “You Can’t Lose A Broken Heart.” Retiring to New York in the 1930s, he tackled his most ambitious goal, composing symphonic music based on African-American themes. Johnson died in 1955.