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James grew up in Maywood Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He began playing the clarinet in his youth at Irving Elementary School and J. W.  James African Methodist Episcopal Church.  During his teenage years, James’ father purchased an alto saxophone for him, and he immediately fell in love with the sound of the instrument. The similarities of the clarinet and saxophone made the transition short and easy.  James was playing songs almost as soon he put the reed on the mouthpiece. His father knew after hearing the first few notes that the saxophone was the right instrument for his son. The clarinet is a B-flat instrument, and the alto sax is an E-flat instrument.  The tonal key difference caused problems for James as he struggled to read music playing the saxophone.  The difficulty James experienced in transposing music charts he could easily read on the clarinet caused so much frustration and impatience that he started memorizing music that he already knew on the clarinet and worked tirelessly to learn to play the songs he knew on the alto saxophone.  Memorizing music allowed him to imitate the tonal sound on either instrument and was the start of his ear training.  As he developed familiarity with the note fingerings of alto sax it became easy to use relative pitch as a tool to translate what he heard to the correct notes on the saxophone. 

James is an international recording artist that has played and recorded with numerous national and international artist.  He’s performed with a few bands in Europe.  Competed and won several international talent competitions that include many Best of Show and 1st Place awards in the United States and Europe.  In 1990 James was recognized at the 5th Annual Gospel Explosion Music Ministry Award as “Gospel Musician of the Year.”  The event was hosted at Heritage Christian Center in Denver Colorado.  The special guest of the event and presenter of the award was Pastor John P. Kee, a top-ranked gospel performer, and producer of the New Life Fellowship Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.  This is one of a long list of awards received, but the only gospel award in his career.

James' long awaited debut Smooth Jazz project titled, “A Figment of My Imagination," was released in July 2011 and continues to top several U. S. and international music charts.  

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Add A Unique Touch To Your Event

As an experienced and accomplished Saxophone Player, Saxophonist James Johnson can play music to set the perfect tone for your guest as they arrive for your event.  Saxophonist James Johnson can assist and make your musical dreams come true.

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Gospel Events

From Hymns to Gospel  Jazz

A seasoned gospel instrumentalist, James’ spiritual roots provided ample opportunity to hone his God-given talent.  Whether playing solo or with other musicians, his soulful sound usher his listeners into the very presence of the Lord. Saxophonist James Johnson's gospel repertoire includes traditional hymns, contemporary and jazz gospel selections. His accomplishments include performing for many notable Gospel artist, awards and recognition as a Gospel Musician.  Want to hear more?  Contact him for your special program or annual days.



A Musical Experience

Set the perfect scene for your wedding ceremony. Saxophonist James Johnson will work with you to find the sound you’re looking for and the songs you love. You can book him as a One Man Band that will give you a full band sound prior to the start of your ceremony and select instrumental selections during specified segments of the ceremony.  If you’re looking for a top musician who will be a pleasure to work with and will make your special day even more special, get in touch now.

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Corporate Events

From Modern to Traditional

As an experienced musician, Saxophonist James Johnson is able to offer clients true musical versatility, with a repertoire of Smooth Jazz, Jazz Standards and Popular Instrumental music that will ensure the soundscape of your event is unique, enjoyable and memorable. You can count on James' years of professional experience to be punctual, courteous, organized with the right setup for the venue and get the job done effortlessly. Want to hear more? Get in touch to schedule a personal meeting.

You can rest assured knowing that you’ll find what you’re looking for at a price you can afford.

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Music Samples and Clips


Instrumental Jazz, Standards & Pop


Gospel & Hymns

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A Multi-Instrumentalist

A Wide Range of Music  --  Gospel • Hymns • Smooth Jazz • Jazz Standards • Popular Music

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Yamaha Soprano Sax

James first instrument was the clarinet.  He never really liked the sound of the instrument and did as much as he could to change the sound by adding electronics. The electronics added made the clarinet sound like a keyboard synthesizer.  This experiment phase allowed him to play music he loved with his new skills and creativity.  James eventually started playing the alto sax, and after eight years of playing alto, he could finally afford to purchase a soprano sax. Once he got his first soprano sax, a Yamaha 675 Custom Soprano, he quickly realized that there was virtually no learning curve in playing this new addition to his saxophone family, because the clarinet and the soprano are both B flat instruments


Yamaha Alto Sax

James regularly plays the Alto Sax as it the primary sax used in the majority of his performances.  James had a difficult time early on as he switched from playing the clarinet to alto sax.  Unfortunately a choice to abandon reading music out of frustration because it was getting in the way of his creativity.  He felt it was easier to practice harder, memorize the music, and interpret the music his way.  James did very well until he started playing traditional jazz.  Attempting to play and create on the fly was difficult to say the least.  Playing the difficult jazz chord changes would be a piece of cake if he had not his abandoned his sight reading skills.  Trying to wrap his mind around different ways to approach a song on the fly is like trying to learn to swim after being thrown into the deep end.  You are either going to survive or drown, neither is good when it comes to live performance music.  Overtime he worked through the standards in survival mode and gained confidence because jazz lends itself to creativity.  He eventually developed methods and skills to identify certain progressions and ways to work through them and thrive rather than survive.   After numerous survival moments on the crest of thriving James decided to increase his potential of thriving by purchasing a Tenor Saxophone.


Yamaha Tenor  Sax

James is known for playing the Alto Saxophone, but he also plays the Tenor Sax. While many other musicians may pick up a second or third instrument for the fun of it, James is dedicated to each horn he plays. Hours are spent learning every possible technique and style each horn is able to create in the music genres he loves.  The Tenor has a rich heritage in Jazz music.  I tend to compare the different saxes in a visual way.  A Soprano is a slim small horn like a sleek sexy woman with a beautiful seductive voice that is soft and pleasing to the ear.  The Alto is like a welterweight in boxing  It can be a versatile mix of speed and power.  It is also capable of being soft or in your face and edgy at the same time.  The Tenor is muscle but lean, it has it all. It is the Heavy Weight especially when it comes to Jazz there is nothing like a Jazz Tenor.  


Even though I am known for my Alto playing I quickly learned from experience that some jazz gigs require a Tenor Sax. In my travels and experiences, the Tenor is the Primo Horn In Jazz spots internationally. Because my skills do not match the great Charlie Parker or several other Jazz greats, I chose to dedicate several years in becoming proficient and comfortable playing a Tenor Sax to stay relevant.  Fortunately the Yamaha family of horns all have a similar feel.  The comfort and feel of my Tenor Sax made the process easier, but it is still a work in progress.

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A Figment of My Imagination

Some moments in life are so unbelievable that they feel like dreams.  I have experienced many of those moments in my lifetime.  I thought of one of those moments in particular when recording this song. Sometimes your eyes can deceive you, and your interpretation of the experience biased or distorted in a way that is regarded as inaccurate. I was in disbelief, and had to ask someone if what I saw was real.  To this day I still wonder if the instance was "A Figment of My Imagination", or not.


Love situations, dating situations and the impact of how our decisions shape our current and future life. Among the many difficulties of life, is living with consequences of a bad choice about who you love and date.  Take some time to consider your choice before spending too much time with the wrong person.  Don't let your heart take complete control and cause you to be in situations that lead to the stress of heartache and grief.

The Conclusion

This is a song /groove that came to mind, when exploring an idea after the conclusion of a Sunday morning worship service.



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