John Carlson


John Carlson has spent the better part of his life pursuing his intense passion and love for music. Studying at both North Texas State University and later at Northern Illinois University, both well known for their collegiate jazz programs, John earned a degree in Saxophone Performance from NIU in 1986. Having worked in a wide variety of professional music circles since 1984, John brings a wealth of experience and skill to his passion for music.

In 1987, a friend invited John to attend services at Willow Creek Community Church, located near Chicago Illinois. John's vision for combining his musical gifts with contemporary church music ministry took root at Willow Creek and he soon committed his life to Christ and dedicated his musical gifts towards glorifying God. John's soulful and emotional style of playing, along with his innovative arranging, created what became one of the trademark voices of the Willow Creek Music Ministry from 1987 to 2001.

Saxophone is John Carlson's main axe but he also plays keyboards. John is also an incredible arranger and producer. Here is what Norm Stockton (Bassist & Clinician, Maranatha! Music) had to say about John's music.

 "John demonstrates a keen understanding of true musicality. Way beyond mere cool licks, he is one of the most expressive & emotive players with whom I've had the pleasure to work. He possesses that rare ability to discern when NOT to play, as well. John is a fantastic & ultra-talented musician."

      Expressions Of Instrumental Worship features a special guest appearance by jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum in a duet with John Carlson on his arrangement of "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands." And the horns are smokin'! (This recording was recently included on the CJA Network Compilation CD, "Hymn Favorites" containing 16 "jazzed up" versions of Hymns!)

Many of Johns arrangements/charts are available! Visit here for other arrangements/charts by John or you can e-mail him!

  Expressions Of Instrumental Worship

album cover

    (From the liner notes)
"From 1987 to 2001, I had the privilege to serve as a musician and Music Director at Willow Creek Community Church, then one of the largest and most innovative churches in the world. In those years, instrumental arrangements by others and myself were used as preludes and offertories during the services each week. These arrangements ranged from simple re-workings of the melodies and chords, to sometimes elaborate musical creations. Many of them were written around and inspired by the exceptional group of gifted and faithful musicians we had – many of whom were volunteers. As I remember the creative process of each arrangement, from the first one I did of I Love You Lord because of how the simple song and lyrics moved me in my early worship experiences, to later ones such as Your Everlasting Love - one thing I feel sure of is that they were all pure offerings of worship - from the creation to the performance. They were born out of wonderful moments of spirit lead creativity in order to hopefully craft and express something of beauty and worthiness to the Lord, all with the prayer that it would play a small part in helping to move people toward Christ for that service. These arrangements all bring great memories of the many ministry and worship “moments” we had playing and recording them. I hope you find your own worship moments in them as well." - John Carlson

 I Love You Lord           

Whole World In His Hands  

  Lord I Lift Your Name On High         

Show Me Your Ways   


To purchase this CD or for more information about John Carlson visit:


Back to the CJA Network page!