“Johnston explores the limits of his instrument with a hankering for originality…running away and never looking back.”
– San Francisco Bay Guardian, “Pick of the Week,” July 5-11, 2006.
“fantastic…with a big bell tone and a tart phrasing style that really cuts through.”
– Signal to Noise #48.
“a resourceful improviser who writes vivid, episodic themes.”
– Downbeat Magazine, June 2007, “25 Trumpeters for the Future.”
“Someone to watch, on trumpet of course, but as a composer and bandleader as well.”
– John Corbett, Downbeat Magazine, Aug 2009
About Darren Johnston
Since settling in San Francisco in 1997, Canada-born trumpeter/composer/songwriter Darren Johnston has collaborated and recorded with an extremely diverse cross-section of artists. His interests rotate around composing instrumental music, writing songs, and performing all styles of jazz, experimental and purely improvised music, as well as traditional music of the Balkans, Greece, Macedonia, Turkey, and the Arab world. These interests have coalesced into his primary ensemble of late, Darren Johnston’s Broken Shadows. He has performed and/or recorded with luminaries such as Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, Fred Frith, Meklit Hadero, ROVA Sax Quartet, Myra Melford, Ben Goldberg, Matt Wilson, Mark Dresser, Marshall Allen, Dave Rempis, Larry Ochs, Marcus Shelby, and others.
As a composer, he has written for small jazz groups, big bands, string quartet, chamber ensembles and more. He has written for dance companies such as Axis Dance, Amy Seiwert’s Imagery, Robert Moses’ Kin, Liss Fain, and others, as well as for short films. In his song-writing the last few years Johnston has focused on using found text to create lyrics from. In 2012 he composed a suite extracting text from a series of interviews he conducted with a diverse collection of immigrants living in the Bay Area called “Songs of Seven Miles.” The following year he continued this technique by commissioning letters from immigrants who wrote either to their own selves at the time they first arrived in the US, as if they were able to send a message with insights and advice back through time, or to a beloved of their choosing back in their country of origin. He then set the resulting songs on an elementary-school class, three middle-school classes, a high-school choir, a collection of professional singers, a Bulgarian tupan drummer, and six horns, all using body-percussion and choreography, in order to form the Trans-Global People’s Chorus. Other projects as a band-leader include the award winning Nice Guy Trio, The Darren Johnston Quintet, and the category defying Broken Shadows, which mixes song-writing with musicians from jazz, classical, Balkan, and other musical communities.