Welcome To Disruptive Jazz: Arnetta Johnson at The Kimmel Center - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Camden, New Jersey’s Arnetta Johnson isn’t one to stay in a lane. The trumpet player, band leader, and composer has over the past five years honed a style she’s come to refer to as “disruptive jazz” – an amalgam of all her musical interests, from classic grooves and atmospheres to brassy marching band energy to bold incorporation of hard-hitting hip-hop and trap atmospheres on her latest single “Move Around.”

In March of 2022, Johnson made her post-pandemic return to the stage, and she did it in style, headlining the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Cultural Campus. The show was the most expansive display of her creative vision yet, incorporating multimedia projections, lively choreography, and an eight-piece band.

Leading up to the show, WXPN Local got to be a fly on the wall during Johnson’s rehearsal for her Kimmel Center debut, and we talked to her about the journey and what she seeks to achieve. See and hear what we found out in the below mini-documentary, Welcome To Disruptive Jazz: Arnetta Johnson at The Kimmel Center, and read highlights from the interview below.

Welcome To Disruptive Jazz: Arnetta Johnson at The Kimmel Center

…on the growth of her sound over the years.

Not that I wasn’t pushing boundaries, because I’ve always been doing so. But sometimes, we have to build our strength throughout the years. My push then was completely different from my push now. So if before I was like [softly] “I’ll push the boundaries,” now it’s like “OKAY I’M PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES COMPLETELY.” And I’m so strong y’all can’t even hold me back type vibe. That’s pretty much where I’m at with it now, and you will see that in the performance, and it’s gonna be great.

…on the concept of “disruptive jazz.”

When it came time to put out “Move Around,” it was like this actually is perfect. This way I’ve got a song that is filled with horns, and it touches on everything. I have a part in the song where I say “slow slow it down, can you hear that trumpet sound,” and I’m playing a light solo. That is technically catering to jazz. And then I have the marching band-ish sound that caters to marching band culture. And I have this trap beat that’s hip-hop. So I’m like “this song is the definition of disruptive jazz.” It’s like everything right there, everything is all right there.

…on how it feels to headline her biggest hometown show to date at the Perelman Theater.

It’s such a big deal, such a big deal, because like I said, headlining anything is amazing. And to do it at a place such as The Kimmel Center, oh my goodness. That’s like, everyone in this area, that’s one of their bucket list places to play. And just to know that there are a lot of people coming, that they’re gonna watch this show of this Black woman trumpet player performing. The fact that I get to present something that means so much. I’m just so excited.

Arnetta Johnson and her band plays four sets in two nights at SOUTH on Friday, April 28th and Saturday, April 29th at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. both nights. Tickets and more information can be found at the WXPN Concerts and Events page.

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