Calvin Johnson Jr.’s debut CD, Jewel’s Lullaby, is projected to soar because of its refreshing fusion of honesty and artistry. Its songs are auditory snapshots of a deeply transformational phase of his life, ripe with inflections that listeners than feel rather than hear.
The title track is a tribute to Johnson’s daughter, who was a newborn at the time he decided to compose the album. Inspired by a melody he conjured up to soothe her to slumber, the song excavated a type of enlightenment for him that translates directly into the music. “For the first time in my life, I was acknowledging certain emotions that were repressed. Because of this new gift,” he says, “I couldn’t contain them anymore. I had to express them.”
And he does. A truly meditative endeavor, Jewel’s Lullaby is a musical memoir. Johnson is a jazz scholar himself, immersed in musical theory since before he could speak, but the tracks on this album include elements of funk, as well as church, making it a versatile listening experience. “It was an expressive flurry that couldn’t be tamed by a contrived system,” he says about writing and producing the album, which was somewhat of a perfect storm for him. “My background has allowed me to expand upon my creative inclinations.”
Johnson’s treatment of “So Near, So Far” plays with the concept of musical layers; instruments and cadences complement one another on a track that feels beautifully paradoxical. “Amazing Grace” offers the resonance of a small town church, with its sentimental yet undeniably powerful tone. While the song was intended for a sax quarter, Johnson plays each part of this track himself, conveying his own artistic evolution. “I was reflecting on a very personal loss and it felt like divine intervention. I had to do this song. Something or someone was standing over me to guide me,” he reflects.
Inspired by muses and driven by a family legacy, Calvin Johnson, Jr. has already captured attention from mentors and peers with this new project. Thrilled to present Jewel’s Lullaby to the music world, his upcoming performances promise a very personal introduction to himself, his band, and their sound.