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September 5

Concert Hour: Performance Lab (D10)

Steph Johnson Trio

According to North County writer Jim Trageser, singer/guitarist Steph Johnson “has a larger-than-life presence.” Buoyed by inveterate bassist Rob Thorsen and young drum phenom Fernando Gomez, Johnson opens the series with her unique jazz/blues style.

Steph Johnson :: Voice/Guitar


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In the wake of the economic crisis of 2008, aspiring musician Steph Johnson made a brave choice: The singer/guitarist chose to abandon her 12-year career in banking and pursue her dreams of making music full-time. It wasn’t the only time the intrepid Johnson would eschew the safe decision. In 2011, Johnson had already released two albums and was clearly on the way up in the soul/R&B musical genre with jazzy undertones. In fact, her second CD won an SDMA for “Best Jazz Record” without actually being a jazz document. Later that year, Johnson didn’t just switch horses in mid-stream, she switched streams. A chance encounter with double-bassist Rob Thorsen in the green-room at the Ocean Beach Music & Arts Festival led to a drastic change in direction that soon found her leaving behind a fine-tuned band — with pianist Leo Dombecki and drummer Jesse Charnow — and a devoted following for the relative insecurities of a life in jazz. She formed the Steph Johnson Trio with Thorsen and young drum master Fernando Gomez.

Rob Thorsen :: Bass


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Jazz bassist Rob Thorsen maintains a diverse and busy schedule in Southern California as a performer, educator, clinician and composer. He has found his true voice in the upright bass and performs regularly both as a leader as well as with artists including the Mike Wofford/ Holly Hofmann Quartet, Charles McPherson, Steph Johnson, Gilbert Castellanos, Mundell Lowe and a host of others. Rob was awarded the Young Audiences “Artist of the Year” award in 2011 for his educational efforts and has been nominated numerous times for the San Diego Music Awards “Jazz Artist of the year” and “Jazz CD” categories. He has released four recordings as a leader, the most recent “Lasting Impression” featured an array of jazz talents including pianist Geoffrey Keezer (Christian Mcbride, Chris Botti) , Josh Nelson ( Natalie Cole musical director) and others.  It was on the billboard top 50 list for over 6 months and features four original compositions in addition to an array of jazz standards and arrangements. In addition to performing with his own quartet he has also created “Jazz an American Art Form” – a hugely successful jazz educational program that features his jazz quartet has been presented to over 8,000 students this year.

Fernando Gomez :: Drums


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21 year-old drummer Fernando Gomez has played drums for 12 years and is very active in the Southern California jazz and Latin jazz scene. He plays regularly with the Gilbert Castellanos Quintet, trombonist Dan Reagan (Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez), The Rob Thorsen Quartet, Charles Mcpherson, The Steph Johnson Trio, Adrian Terrazas (The Mars Volta) and others. He is also active in reggae, funk, and rock bands and his you tube video “reggae drumming” has received over 200,000 hits. He has studied with Peter Erskine, Dave Weckl, “El Negro” Hernandez, Steve Smith and others. Fernando is an original and unique drummer whose vitality and creative energy has made him one of San Diego’s most in-demand musicians.