While he may be best-known as the polyrhythmic heartbeat and producer of the Grammy-nominated band Brazilian Girls, Aaron Johnston is more than just a “remarkably fluid drummer,” as the New York Times has dubbed him. A Verve recording artist, writer, producer, arranger, programmer, vocalist, and engineer of the highest caliber, his diverse skills have made him one of Latin and American music’s most sought after collaborators.
A graduate of Wichita State University’s renowned music program, Johnston studied jazz and classical drumming in addition to devoting four intense years to the study of world percussion. He served as a professor’s assistant and as the director of Wichita’s Escola De Samba while obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree, developing an intuitive blend of technical training and natural feel that would guide the rest of his career.
In Los Angeles, he quickly became a first-call session and touring drummer for the likes of Desmond Child and the Pete Escovedo Orchestra. After relocating to San Francisco, he found himself performing and recording with a slew of legends: Darol Anger’s Heritage Project (featuring Willie Nelson and Mary Chapin Carpenter), Mike Marshall’s Choro Famoso, Andy Narell, Omar Sosa,t Aphelbaum and the Hieroglyphics Ensemble, and Katoja among others. All the while, he was producing and recording jazz albums with his own celebrated group, Blue People.
In January of 1998, Johnston moved to New York City, where he earned spots behind the kit with everyone from Harry Belafonte, Angelique Kidjo and Me’shell Ndegeocello to Wax Poetic and Latin pop star Thalia.