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Phillip Johnston

Date of birth22 January 1955
CategoriesJazz, Soundtrack/Film Music

A saxophonist, composer and arranger of both jazz and new music, Phillip has been a significant figure in the underground music scene of New York’s downtown since the beginning of the 1980’s. He has composed extensively for film including Paul Mazursky’s Faithful, Philip Haas’ The Music of Chance and Money Man, Dorris Dörrie’s Paradise and Geld, and more recently, Stolen Life by Peter Rasmussen & Jackie Turnure (which won a New York Machinima Award for Best Music Score) & Noise by Henry Bean. He has also written for silent film, including Tod Browning’s The Unknown, The George Méliès Project, Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Page Of Madness and F.W. Murnau’s Faust. His theatre composition credits include Measure For Measure, War Of The Roses, The Comedy Of Errors, The Merchant Of Venice and Macbeth for Bell Shakespeare; Young Goodman Brown with Richard Foreman, Venus with Suzan-Lori Parks, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Ruysch and The Falls with Hilary Bell, and Drawn To Death: A Three Panel Opera with Art Spiegelman. Dance credits include Karole Armitage’s The Predators’ Ball and Keely Garfield’s Minor Repairs Necessary for which he won a ‘Bessie’ in 1999.

Throughout, he has maintained a parallel career as a saxophonist, both working with others and leading his own bands. During the 1980’s he led the Microscopic Septet, and in the 1990’s he led Big Trouble and The Transparent Quartet. His silent film score for F.W. Murnau’s Faust (1926) with lyrics by Hilary Bell premiered at the New York Film Festival in 2002, has subsequently toured throughout Europe and the USA, and had it’s Australian premiere at Sydney’s Seymour Centre in 2007. He has recently toured internationally with the seven-piece Fast ‘N’ Bulbous: The Captain Beefheart Project, featuring Gary Lucas, for which he arranged and conducted, and with The Microscopic Septet. Phillip’s recent recordings include Waxed Oop (Cuneiform) with Fast ‘N’ Bulbous, and Lobster Leaps In (Cuneiform), with the Microscopic Septet, and Page of Madness (Asynchronous). He currently performs in Australia with Phillip Johnston and the Coolerators, and SNAP, a saxophone quartet, (and recently performed his scores for silent film at both the Melbourne Festival of the Arts and the Sydney Film Festival); and in the US and Europe with The Microscopic Septet and Fast ‘N’ Bulbous. Other current projects include Do Good And You Will be Happy, with Hilary Bell, a musical based on Cole’s Funny Picture Books. His newest CDs are Friday The 13th: The Micros Play Monk (Cuneiform) by The Microscopic Septet and Boggy Creek Bop (Rufus) by SNAP. The Spokes have just recorded their first CD which as yet unreleased.

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