A fine pianist influenced by Oscar Peterson, Johnny O’Neal actually started his career playing gospel piano in church while a teenager. Inspired by Peterson, Art Tatum, and Bud Powell, O’Neal started exploring jazz in 1976 and after impressing Ray Brown, found his way into Milt Jackson’s group. Other important jobs followed (with Sonny Stitt, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, and Buddy DeFranco), and in 1982, O’Neal moved to New York and soon recorded his debut with Concord. After playing regularly with Clark Terry, he was a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1982-1983) and has mostly led his own groups ever since. Johnny O’Neal has recorded as a leader for Concord, Parkwood, and Justin Time (1995), taking three effective vocals on the latter set.