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Eric Schneider
Tribute to Eddie Johnson



Chicago, IL
Sunday Dec. 9,2007

Eric Schneider
Eric Schneider
Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson

Story and Photos by James Walker, Jr.

The weekly Checker Jazz set at the Checkerboard Lounge on Dec. 9th was a very special occasion. Musicians and dignitaries joined the regular crowd to fill the Checkerboard to full capacity to pay tribute to saxophonist Eddie Johnson, a true legend in the Chicago Jazz scene. As evidenced by the large crowd on this cold and wet Chicago night, Eddie Johnson is obviously well loved and respected.

This was the place to be on this night, as Johnson's longtime colleague and friend, multi-reedist Eric Schneider, led a close knit quartet and orchestrated a "jam" session that had the audience in a frenzy before the conclusion of the second set. Johnson, who no longer performs due to illness, was extremely appreciative and moved by the love shown by all present.

The first set started out as good straight ahead Jazz. Schneider's ace bandmates included veterans like bassist Kelly Sill, drummer Phil Gratteau and young keyboardist Dan Cray. This ensemble really grooved together during the first set, alternating solos on each tune. The first song was an original Eddie Johnson composition entitled "Reed Rock." During the playing of "Lady Be Good" there was a nice exchange between drummer Gratteau and bassist Sill. Of course, Schneider got a few licks in also.

Throughout the entire evening, Schneider demonstrated his skill and talent as he interchanged between playing the tenor, alto and soprano, in addition to blowing bright flourishes on the clarinet. He plays each instrument with ease and exceptional ability.

Schneider once played in Count Basie's Big Band, recommended by Eddie Johnson when Eddie turned down the gig to concentrate on raising a family and playing in the local Chicago scene. The rigors of being constantly on the road and away from his family didn't appeal to Johnson.

Eric soloed on a beautiful ballad during the set, which he dedicated to his wife of 25 years. This was a Eric at his best, as he stretched out on the clarinet (he quipped that this was not one of Johnson's favorite instruments).

The band concluded the first set with Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing." Keyboardist Dan Cray had an opportunity to run the 88s on this tune. This demonstration brought the crowd to their feet.

During intermission, many of Johnson's friends paid tribute to this musical giant. Included was special words from his lifelong friend and Checker Jazz Board Member, Charlie Thomas; master pianist. "South Side" John Wright, and Jazz Institute Vice President Dr. Timuel Black. It was also during this segment that Hyde Park Jazz Society's Jim Wagner presented Eddie with a plaque.

The 2nd set was strictly a good old fashioned jam session, with many of the musicians taking turns on the band stand with Eric and his group, as they continued the tribute to Johnson. During this set, Eris played a beautiful, bluesy version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Keyboardist Cray also wailed on this number.

Saxophonist Diane "Lil Sax" Ellis was one of the first guests to join the band. Diane and Eric heated up things with their parallel play that didn't sound busy, as well as their call and response. Their version of the "Indian Love Call" was one of the true highlights of the evening. Pianist Tommy Mueller and vocalist Arlene Bardelle sat in for a few tunes. Arlene has a beautiful , sultry instrument clear, firm and focused.

Next to appear on stage was another saxophonist, Juli Wood, along with keyboardist Jeremy Kahn. It was a sight to see Eric, Juli and Diane Ellis blowing in unison to the approval of the toe-tapping capacity crowd.

What an evening!!! Great Chicago musicians and dignitories paying tribute to the legendary Eddie Johnson. The appreciative Johnson was obviously moved and speechless when presented with his award. Thanks Hyde Park Jazz Society for recognizing one who has contributed so much over the years to teh development of Jazz in the city. Keep up the good work as you continue to provide an avenue for discerning Jazz fans each and every Sunday night at the Checkerboard Lounge in Hyde Park.

Future Checker Jazz sets include the following:

Dec. 16 Joan Collasco - jazz vocalist

Dec. 23 Sax in the City - Audley Reid, James Perkins, Ray Silkman & Skinny Williams

Dec. 30 Crosswinds Latin Jazz featuring Greg Penn & Marvinetta


Eric Schneider
Eric Schneider
Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
Diane Ellis
Diane Ellis
Charles Thomas
Charles Thomas
Jeremy Kahn
Jeremy Kahn
Diane Ellis & Eric Scheider
Diane Ellis & Eric Schneider
Arlene Bardelle
Arlene Bardelle
Eric Schneider
Eric Schneider
Jim Wagner & Eddie Johnson
Jim Wagner presents to Eddie Johnson
Eric Schneider
Eric Schneider
Juli Wood
Juli Wood
Eric Schneider
Eric Schneider
Kelly Sill, Dan Cray, Phil Gratteau & Eric Schneider
Kelly Sill, Dan Cray, Phil Gratteau & Eric Schneider
Tom Muellner
Tom Muellner
Dan Cray
Dan Cray
Eric Schneider
Eric Schneider
Dr. Timuel Black
Dr. Timuel Black
Dr. Timuel Black
Dr. Timuel Black
Kelly Sill
Kelly Sill
Jeremy Kahn
Jeremy Kahn
Eric Schneider
Eric Schneider
Jeremy Kahn, Diane Ellis, Juli Wood & Eric Schneider
Jeremy Kahn, Diane Ellis, Juli Wood & Eric Schneider
Juli Wood
Juli Wood
Arlene Bardelle
Arlene Bardelle
Kelly Sill, Dan Cray, Phil Gratteau & Eric Schneider
Kelly Sill, Dan Cray, Phil Gratteau & Eric Schneider
Tommy Muellner
Tommy Muellner
Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson

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