H. Johnson features underrated guitarist, pianist and jazz virtuoso Emily Remler

Longtime WABE host H. Johnson (WABE).

WABE’s H. Johnson has been a fixture on our station since 1978. As host of both “Blues Classics” and “Jazz Classics,” H. continually educates and entertains WABE listeners every Friday and Saturday night. Now, H. joins “City Lights” every other Friday to share a bit from his breadth of jazz knowledge. The segment, “H. Johnson’s Jazz Moment,” explores selections from the best of H.’s music collection, along with tidbits from history, personal reflections, and his thoughts on the evergreen resonance of jazz. 

This “Jazz Moment” opened with a thoughtful reflection on the gender imbalance still plaguing the music world. “I’d like to state that sometimes females who are great musicians don’t get the respect that they would if they were a man, and that’s just a fact. That’s worse than racism and sometimes deadly,” said Johnson. “I’m talking about a young lady who got her recognition, but not as much as she should have because she was struggling to get what she got.”

We then explored the music of Emily Remler, a guitarist, and pianist who shined across genres, with a keen and expansive interest in music in all its forms. On guitar, she brought to bear influence from her heroes Eric Clapton and sitar legend Ravi Shankar and became a jazz virtuoso after skeptical first glances. “She hated jazz when she first heard it… She saw just a bunch of notes that these musicians were throwing together and making noise,” said Johnson. “But she started listening with an open mind and got to know the works of Charlie Christian, a great guitarist, Kenny Burrell, John Coltrane… Miles, Paul Desmond, loved them all. And if you listen to her statements in music, you could hear their influence coming out of her, especially the Wes Montgomery influence.”

Johnson’s a particular fan of her album “East to Wes,” a tribute to Montgomery, which featured Hank Jones on piano, Buster Wheels on bass, and Mavin “Sweetie” Smith on drums. From this record, Johnson featured a track, “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise,” a deep and moody mid-tempo swing ballad with staircases of densely harmonized chords climbing up the scale. Remler plays a hollow-body electric and luxuriates in the dampened mellowness of its tone, deftly brightening occasional accent notes with harmonics.

Catch H. Johnson’s “Blue Classics” every Friday from 10 p.m. to midnight, and “Jazz Classics” every Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on WABE 90.1 Atlanta.