Almost-Grammy nominee and jazzman to play in Virginia City |

Almost-Grammy nominee and jazzman to play in Virginia City

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer

Close may only count in horseshoes, but it means something to near-Grammy nominees, too.

Greg Johnson, a jazz keyboardist who will be performing and signing CDs at the Washoe Club in Virginia City today, came as close as you can without actually being nominated.

“There were 50 recordings that were selected from which the five nominations were drawn yesterday,” he said. “We were one of the 50 finalists, but not one of the five. But we made it pretty far.”

Johnson and his band, Glass Brick Boulevard, are proud their CD got as far as it did in the contemporary jazz category.

The CD, “Best When Lived” is jazz with elements of rock, classical and pop music, Johnson said.

“It’s not traditional jazz, and it’s not Dixieland either, though I love Dixieland,” he said. “Our slogan is if Beethoven came back as Seal, we’d be his band. I use complex chord progressions, but simple rhythms.”

The Gary, Ind., native has lived in Northern California for 40 years, and now performs and teaches piano in northern Marin County, though he said Mill Valley will always be home to him. He said he is “55 going on 20.”

He performed when he was younger, but gave it up to earn a living in manufacturing and raise his daughter.

“I got really serious about it in 1989,” he said. “This is the only thing I ever wanted to do, so I stopped working at a manufacturing company and started playing piano again. Then I formed my band and I’ve been playing ever since.”

He got to know a friend of the Washoe Club owners, Cliff and Jennifer McCain and Cherrie Bailey, and they suggested he come over the Sierra Nevada.

“I like going around the country and meeting new people and introducing them to jazz,” he said. “It sounded as if it (Virginia City) was not a big jazz area.”

He said his influences show in his music: Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Motown, but also gospel and Beethoven.

“I grew up listening to early Motown,” he said. “I sang in my church choir and love great melodies and the early danceable stuff. That’s what we did as teenagers, we got together with our 45s and danced.”

He said later he enjoyed Led Zeppelin, The Who and the Beatles, turning his own style into a combination of things.

“In the middle of that one of my teachers taught me classical music, so I added some Beethoven, Mozart, Handel and Chopin,” he said. “I loved all different kinds of music, so my composition style became an amalgamation of all that.”

“Best When Lived” is the fourth CD by Johnson and Glass Brick Boulevard, and he said the pop aspects of his music has made it accessible to more people.

“Even if they don’t like jazz, there’s something in there they will like,” he said.

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or 882-2111 ext. 351.

If You Go

WHAT: Greg Johnson performance and CD signing

WHEN: 2:30 p.m. today

WHERE: Washoe Club, 112 S. C St., Virginia City

CALL: 847-7210

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