Born in Pittsburgh, home to jazz greats Art Blakey, Ray Brown, Jeff "Tain" Watts and Ahmad Jamal, Richard D. Johnson has strong territorial jazz roots. He was first introduced to the piano at the age of five by his father, a gospel pianist from Baltimore, MD. Since then, he has cultivated a rich and pedigreed musical background, schooled by legendary jazz musicians and studying at the most esteemed music institutions. After receiving a scholarship and graduating from the Berklee School of Music in just two years, Richard entered the Boston Conservatory, earning a master’s degree in jazz Pedagogy in 3 semesters. He then received an Artist Performance Diploma at the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz Performance at New England Conservatory under the direction of the influential Ron Carter.
Richard was invited to become a member of Wynton Marsalis' Septet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, which he did from 2000-2003. He also played as part of the Russell Malone Quartet, Delfeayo Marsalis Quintet & The Bobby Watson Quartet. After completing his tenure with those groups, Richard started the Reach Afar program for young people ages 7-17, educating them about elements of jazz in hip-hop.
Richard has traveled extensively, sharing the gift of jazz to audiences around the world. As a
representative of the United States through the U.S. State Department, Richard was named United States Musical Ambassador. During that time he did six state department tours that took him to Central and South America, Africa, & The Middle East affording him the opportunity to perform in more than 76 countries. Richard has also accompanied such jazz icons as Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Heath and Arturo Sandoval.
In 2005 Richard became the musical director for the Atlanta Spirit LLC. This joint project enabled him to create a live instrumental five-member band for the N.B.A and perform at all forty-six home games and outside activities. One of Richard's other strengths is administration and music management. In 2013 he began visiting Doha Qatar as a performing artist at the Jazz at Lincoln Center venue. Having been well received numerous times, he was presented with the opportunity in 2015 to be the acting on-site full-time “Jazz Ambassador” in partnership with the St. Regis Doha Hotel branding company.
Currently, Richard is the CEO of “AFAR Music” a jazz record label focusing on musicians from Chicago, IL. In his current role, he performs with world-class artists promoting jazz to a vast array of audiences. Also, Richard is the Full Time Jazz Piano instructor at Peabody Conservatory of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. Richard also serves as the piano instructor for the Ravinia Jazz Program in Chicago, IL.
Richard is an accomplished composer and arranger with seven musical releases as a leader. His latest release, as of September 8th, 2023 is entitled “Our Heroes” and features a stellar cast jazz ensemble consisting of Geof Bradfield on Saxophone, John Tate on Bass, & Samuel Jewell on drums. Look out for his new “ Music is Business..What is this” Podcast now on YouTube, Spotify, and iTunes.
* Richard is a Yamaha-endorsed piano artist