What’s in my travel bag: Richard Johnson

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Talking travel with Richard Johnson, the new Global Ambassador for Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha.


It’s no secret that Qatar has one of the finest jazz clubs in the Middle East. Located within the St. Regis Doha, Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha has welcomed many of the world’s top musicians in the three short years it has been open. It’s the role of the Global Ambassador to ensure that the performances reflect the quality of the original facility in New York, and from its Doha headquarters to take jazz to countries even further afield.

Richard Johnson is the latest musician to take up the position, and was excited about the move to Doha. “I’d been travelling to and from Qatar, playing here since 2013, and always had a great time writing and composing arrangements for the different bands,” he says. “It was a logical move for me when the position became vacant.”

As well as planning events and educating up-and-coming talent, Johnson still plays piano at the venue six nights a week, and prides himself on the standards he strives for.

“Each musician is hand-picked, so they understand what we’re trying to achieve,” he says.

He gets to travel occasionally too, sometimes back home to the USA, and these items are always with him:

Cologne:Bleu de Chanel is my favourite. I need to be fresh in case I have a meeting. Doha is always hot, so I’ve got used to carrying this around.

A granola bar:I get hungry often and eat quickly, so I always have food in my bag. I need energy for when I run, and for when I get into the music.

A photo of my family:This reminds me where I came from. I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was home to jazz greats like Art Blakey and Ray Brown. My father is a musician too, playing the piano and the organ, but before retirement worked a 10-hour-a-day job to support his family, and help the neighbours and their kids. He’s my musical hero.

My iPod:I need to have some music with me to get lost in and go running to. I’m always trying to decide which musicians to bring to Doha and play with us next, so I like to keep up to date with who is playing what.

Running shoes:I always try to get some exercise in, no matter where I am, so my New Balance Speed Rides travel with me. I’m a marathon runner, and in 2016 I’m planning to run for charity.

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