Javon Jackson: For You

By PATRICK BURNETTE

Tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson has roots stretching back to the hard-bop forebearers, having served stints with Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton, and other luminaries of the lineage. For You is his twentieth release as a leader, and it finds him paying homage to Hubbard (“My Man Hubbard”), McCoy Tyner (“88 Strong”), Pharoah Sanders (“Mr. Sanders”—though really, the vibe is more great-quartet era of John Coltrane than Sanders), and Walton (two tunes by the pianist: “Simple Pleasure” and “Holy Land”). As the on-the-nose titles demonstrate, Jackson isn’t trying to be tricky or elusive—he’s spelling out his mainstream stance in capital letters. If the album had a thesis, it would be: “They do make them like that anymore.”

Jackson’s playing is direct but rarely declamatory—he attacks his lines with a slight obliqueness, the envelope around each note just a bit impressionistic. He’s not a Paul Gonsalves disciple, but his articulation leans more in that direction than, say, Sonny Rollins. As a technician he is solid but not overwhelming—Jackson doesn’t fear the occasional slight fumble as long as the expressivity is there. His band is warm and flexible, though in some stylistic tributes they sometimes imitate their models with uncomfortable fidelity (“Mr. Sanders” is so close to the classic Coltrane quartet rhythm section sound that Elvin Jones and company could sue, though Jackson himself is not in thrall to Tranisms). Pianist Jeremy Manasia is the other featured soloist, and he ranges well beyond McCoy Tyner’s model on most of the outing, though it might be difficult to pick him out of a crowd of other mainstream pianists.

What elevates the session above the average run of modern mainstream jazz is atmosphere and emotional commitment. The institutionalization of jazz instruction means that hundreds of musicians can produce competent music in this genre, but only a few are able to present it with the conviction Jackson displays on For You. Jackson isn’t just competent in the idiom—he’s committed to it and, by the sound of things, fulfilled by it. Pacing helps—the album’s ten performances mostly fall in the five-minute range and the whole package wraps up in just over fifty minutes, well before eyes start to glaze. And Jackson touches on enough different landmarks of the post-bop mainstream that he never gets stuck in just one bag.

No one is going to argue that this album is groundbreaking or state of the art stuff. It’s just a solid collection of solidly performed tunes with that extra spark that holds the attention, and it will likely be just as enjoyable to listen to forty years from now as it is today.

Track Listing: I’m Old Fashioned; My Man Hubbard; Backstage Sally; Mr. Sanders; Sun Up; Simple Pleasure; Lelia; Native Son; Holy Land; 88 Strong.

Personnel: Javon Jackson: tenor saxophone; Jeremy Manasia: piano; David Williams: bass; McClenty Hunter: drums.

Title: For You | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Solid Jackson

 Javon Jackson  CD/LP/Track Review  Patrick Burnette  Two for the Show Media  For You  Solid Jackson  Art Blakey  Freddie Hubbard  Cedar Walton  McCoy Tyner  Pharaoh Sanders  Paul Gonsalves  Sonny Rollins  Elvin Jones

Javon Jackson: For You

By Raul da Gama –
Oct 31, 2018

Photograph by Alan Nahigian

Among the many important names in Jazz with whom Javon Jackson has been associated two spring immediately to mind: Cedar Walton and the great Elvin Jones. Mr Jackson made the groups of both masters infinitely better because of his eloquent musicianship. A virtuoso tenor saxophonist Mr Jackson has a sinuous elegance and because he often hovers in the middle and lower registers of his horn he brings a silken gravitas to his voice. Few saxophonists – not only tenor saxophonists – display the kind of melodicism and raw power that Mr Jackson does. Moreover when he is in full flow – which is throughout this album For You – he puts all of his sublime Jazz musicianship on display connecting him with the greatest tenor saxophonists of the past – Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, (the) Albert Ayler (of Goin’ Home), Archie Shepp and Wayne Shorter…

The repertoire on this album reflects the respect and gratitude which Mr Jackson has for his lineage – his biological family and his musical family – with music that is patently dedicatory. He takes a bold and refreshingly unabashed step here by playing music “in the tradition” – one hesitates to use the word “mainstream” because that word comes with a certain “stodginess” attached. Rather this music pays its respects to The Ancestors in much the same manner in which Anthony Braxton sometimes (but not too often these days) does. Every piece is played with by Mr Jackson with a kind of languid ease, each melodic variation following the other, quite inexorably, his sumptuous tenor sound brilliantly caught on record by Tom Tedesco. There’s an unhurried quality to his approach, a lived-in character to his phrase-making that is engaging and reflects – at times – the brimstone and fire of youth as well as – at other times – a lived-in character that comes from his well-honed values and experiences with the aforementioned (among other) masters.

Mr Jackson is joined here by a trio of musicians who are completely attuned to his vision and artistry and they reflect a combination of youth and wizened experience. Bassist David Williams – another celebrated alumnus of Cedar Walton’s band delivers a hugely powerful performance. Drummer McClenty Hunter shows through his percussion supremacy and elegance why he is all the rage these days and Jeremy Manasia delivers a sterling performance with his masterful pianism comprised of vivid boppish clusters and rolling modal runs and arpeggios. Together the musicians tackle this repertoire featuring beautifully-crafted originals from Mr Jackson’s pen in an eminently memorable manner. They range in beguiling variety and sensuousness in every lovingly-crafted phrase from “My Man Hubbard” and “Mr Sanders”, to standards such as “I’m Old Fashioned” with its delicious trio introduction, “Backstage Sally” – an older Wayne Shorter classic, two great works by Cedar Walton: “Simple Pleasure” and “Holy Land” and a beautiful piece – “Native Son” – from David Williams.

Listening to the way in which Mr Jackson seductively bends the notes in the opening song, and how he sculpts the long, sustained invention of his elegiac “Lelia”, it’s clear that there’s not a single semi-quaver hasn’t been fastidiously considered as, with his singular mellifluous timbre Mr Jackson negotiates the music on this memorable recording.

Track list – 1: I’m Old Fashioned; 2: My Man Hubbard; 3: Backstage Sally; 4: Mr. Sanders; 5: Sun Up; 6: Simple Pleasures; 7: Lelia; 8: Native Son; 9: Holy Land; 10: 88 Strong

Personnel – Javon Jackson: tenor saxophone; Jeremy Manasia: piano; David Williams: contrabass; McClenty Hunter: drums