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Jamming with Michael Johnston

Published:Tuesday | June 7, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Johnston

Local music industry veterans know Michael Johnston from the 1970s through Micron Music Ltd, a promotion and production company he operated in Kingston with Ronnie Burke.

Now in his 60s, Johnston recently moved centrestage with the release of Jamming With Mikey J, a 16-track instrumental album.

Johnston said he started recording Jamming With Mikey J in 2007. It was completed early this year with Johnston playing or programming most of the instruments including guitar, keyboards and saxophone.

The album is something of a family affair. Johnston's son Tarik and nephew Aaron played bass and piano, while Charles Kennedy handled most of the drum duties.

Johnston told The Gleaner that Jamming is strictly a labour of love.

"We're not looking to make money. We hope it's something people can listen and enjoy," he said.

The album covers various genres. Dancehall Rhapsody, written by Tarik Johnston, is a nod to contemporary Jamaican music; Dance With Me Brazil hails that country's Bossa Nova beat while Road March Groove salutes carnival celebrations in the Eastern Caribbean.

Although he once attended the Jamaica School of Music and had informal sessions with guitar maestro Ernie Ranglin, Johnston never became a professional musician.

He went into music distribution and production, starting Micron in the early 1970s with Burke, his schoolmate from Jamaica College. Burke would later become one of the founders of Reggae Sunsplash.

Among Micron's clients was a vocal trio named the African Brothers which included a singer named Lincoln 'Sugar' Minott.

The company's biggest project, however, was Negril, an instrumental album by acclaimed American jazz guitarist Eri Gale. Negril was produced by Johnston who recently released it for the first time on compact disc.