The latest innovation in New Orleans funk, Chapter:SOUL is a project lead by bandleader, vocalist, and tenor saxophonist Calvin Johnson, Jr. featuring a modern 4-piece funk and soul band. This is New Orleans music, yes, but newer, younger, and filtered through a new vision for what that means in the 21st century. The idea for Chapter:SOUL first struck Johnson during a conversation with the legendary Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s sousaphonist Kirk Joseph while they were on tour together.
“After being in tour with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band for the past few years, I started feeling an ‘itch,’” Johnson says. “Night after night, city after city, I realized I was thinking about these gigs, not as a side man but as if they were my gigs...troubleshooting, looking for ways to improve things, and always trying for better. Finally one night, as I was rehashing another show, Kirk said, ‘Calvin, I think you’re ready to dive in that pool and do your own thing.’”
Johnson, who already has an impressive resume which includes touring across 5 continents with acts such as the Blind Boys of Alabama, Harry Connick Jr., Irma Thomas, Jason Derulo, Mannie Fresh, and Mystikal to name a few, decided to call upon Kashonda Bailey (organ, keyboards, and synths), Thomas Glass (drums and pads), and Jenelle Rockaforte (bass) to form a new band with a brand new sound - something Johnson would later call “NOLA future funk.” Together, they employ an electric blend of street brass and bounce rhythms, both to create original compositions and reimagine soul classics.
Chapter:SOUL is touring extensively, with past shows throughout the American midwest, south, southeast, and east. Their first mixtape, The Bible: Book I, dropped in October 2016 followed by a highly acclaimed second mixtape, Book II: The Book of Kanye. Currently the band is recording their first full length album set for a winter 2019 release. Their album will build upon the groundwork laid by both Mixtapes: Book I and II, which fused contemporary hip-hop and soul elements with help from old-school sampling and New Orleans street beats. Their mixtape release parties in New Orleans have become legendary, leaving audiences not only in a euphoric state but also shouting, “encore,” yearning, begging, and pleading for just one more song.
It’s been quite a road so far but the band is young, hungry, and full of fresh ideas. The band will debut their third Mixtape, Book III, in September 2018 in New Orleans while in between tours and the recording of their full feature album. As the band grows, so does the music, the venues and the audiences, so Chapter:SOUL has no plans of slowing down. The band will continue to tour extensively in 2019 following the release of their freshman album.
Calvin Johnson Jr. is a musician, composer, and actor born and raised in New Orleans. He is in the third generation of a long line of accomplished musicians, and a graduate of both NOCCA and UNO. Calvin has performed with Harry Connick Jr., The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Aaron Neville, Jason Derulo, Mannie Fresh, Mystikal, Cedric Burnside, Corey Henry (of Galactic) and Bob French and the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band. In addition to Chapter:SOUL, he leads a contemporary jazz band called Native Son, with which he has performed at numerous esteemed festivals and venues, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, French Quarter Festival, The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, and the George and Joyce Wein Center.