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Meet the Asbury Park Musician: Vel Johnson

The Turf Club, located on 1200 Springwood Avenue, saw many different and well-known jazz artists walk through its doors. But more than just being a place for famous and experienced players, the Turf Club also had a part in fostering and inspiring a new generation of musicians. Vel Johnson was part of that story, living only a few blocks away from the club in his youth, he reminisced about standing on the corner of the street, waiting for the Turf Club's door to swing open to get a peek at the band playing inside. These experiences would kickstart Mr. Johnson's musical journey, where he would soon not just be catching glimpses of the Turf Club from the outside, but would be there, on the stage, performing himself. 

Mr. Johnson began playing music at an early age, picking up the keyboard and the trombone. Besides his visits to the Turf Club, artists like Miles Davis, Grover Washington, Lester Young, John Coltrane, and Charlie Parker inspired and influenced him throughout his career. Despite his proficiency with the keyboard and trombone, Vel Johnson truly blossomed as a jazz musician after one of his friends convinced him to pick up the saxophone in 1986. With the alto saxophone becoming his main instrument, Mr. Johnson would continue to play for a variety of artists like Hugh Masekela, BB King, and Spyro Gyra as well as finally being able to perform in the Turf Club! In 2023, Vel wrote a song called “A Night at the Turf”!  Vel Johnson plays gigs all over the region, releasing his own singles like Misty, and will soon be releasing a CD titled "Sunset Groove."

If you would like to learn more about Vel Johnson and hear some of his saxophone music, check him out at:

— written by Ahan Iyer 


About the Author

Hi! I’m Ahan Iyer, a high school student from Holmdel, New Jersey. My interests include playing the oboe, jazz and chess. I’m a classically trained oboist, but have become interested in exploring various aspects of jazz, including jazz history and jazz composition for the oboe. Apart from exploring the jazz oboe, I play and teach chess. I’m currently working on a research project where I analyze data sets to find patterns that help us understand the wider influences that jazz has globally.

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