A Good Stew: A Look at Javon Jackson
Jackson does not need to prove his credentials as far as being a traditional jazz player. After spending some time at Berklee College of Music in Boston, a move says Jackson, that was inspired by advice from Branford Marsalis, he got gigs with the likes of Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, and of course, Art Blakey and his latest crew of Jazz messengers. Of the experience with Art, Jackson explains, "At Berklee, you receive a lot of great tools and information. That is important, granted... but I must say that I learned more in one week with Blakey, then anywhere else in my career. Basically, I went to the University of Blakey... That was Harvard, an intro to how it is supposed to be. I in some ways, really became a man working with Art and I cherish that experience. Given the history of jazz, that's how everyone started: Ella with Chick Webb, Art Blakey with Billy Eckstine and so on. Like them, I was able to get to speed by working my way up. Coming through a real lineage has helped me solidify and authenticate my spirit of the music. I've got a clear sense of my ancestral stream and the living language of the music."
Jackson, clearly has a vision of Jazz that is evidenced by his music. Rather, than looking at this art as a museum piece, he is taking the music in a forward trajectory. By using the example of the difference in Blakey's groups over time, Jackson is, by way of his last two records and his current working group (the same nucleus that is to be found on the records), forging ahead in a very forward looking direction. "I know that I am probably in for a bashing," Jackson jokes, referring to those critics that will pan him due to his choices of material and instrumentation on Good People. " But I can't worry about that." What Jackson is talking about is how this eclectic mix of original compositions, straight ahead jazz, and a few more world influenced cuts will be treated by the jazz press. The combination of Jackson's sound, which these days is more reminiscent of Coltrane, then the usual comparison to Joe Henderson, and the fact that most of the tunes on Good People stretch out from traditional jazz fare into the realms of jazz-funk and even rock, will surely earn him new fans and exposure, while at the same time, leave some critics locked in a raised-eyebrow posture. There is nothing wrong with that. If jazz is about creative exploration and individual expression, then Javon Jackson, as evidenced by Good People is a very important shining light in the jazz world, and hopefully, will be an influence to younger players as he shows how important it is to have great mentors who were able to hand down the real messages about this wonderful music.