DownBeat Magazine, December 2012
* * * *
John Murph
Javon Jackson – Lucky 13

Of the many thrilling tenor players who emerged two decades ago, Javon Jackson is one of those who get lost in the shuffle. There’s no disputing his improvisational agility or his abilities to deliver magnetic melodies and emotional heft. Perhaps it’s Jackson’s seemingly effortless deliveries or his staunch commitment to the post-bop model that prevent him from garnering more acclaim. Or it could be that despite any context, some listeners can’t shake the ghost of Joe Henderson from their listening. Whatever the case may be, it’s obvious that those oversights haven’t soured his musicianship.

For his 13th disc as a leader, Jackson reconnects with the legendary Les McCann on a few tracks. McCann’s appearances on the classic “Compared To What,” the ballad “With These Hands” and “Amazing Grace” add a world-weary soulfulness to the proceedings, especially via his emotive singing. In turns, Jackson pairs down his improvisations and zeroes in on the soulful contours of the melodies, placing heavier emphasis on his robust tone.

Still the best moments on Lucky 13 are when Jackson puts the spotlight squarely on his saxophone playing and compositions. “Sun Up” with its mid-tempo bounce, lulling melody and Jackson’s sanguine tone is delightful. The tenor titan delivers a poignant tribute to Pharoah Sanders on the sinewy “Mr. Sanders” without resorting to shrieking mimicry.

(c)2012 DownBeat Magazine

Jazz Improv NY May 2009

Cedar Walton/Javon
Jackson/Buster Williams/
Jimmy Cobb
Live at Iridium – April 11, 2009

Reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

While the second set at the Iridium, on this cool April evening, didn’t start right on time, the music more than made up for this little set back. Once these men were on the bandstand they wasted no time and Cedar Walton announced the first tune, appropriately titled “Cedar’s Blues.” While things seemed tentative at first, the music really loosened up once Javon Jackson let loose with some fine saxophone soloing. Walton threw in a nice chromatic line and created some rhythmic tension during his piano solo and Buster Williams showed great dexterity during his solo spot. Williams can create a sustained note like few others and he can also play loose and flowing when he chooses. Jimmy Cobb had some fun trading twelves with Walton and Jackson and he took an extended solo before the whole band jumped back in to finish things off.

“Holy Land” began with a solo piano introduction and Walton mixed flurries of notes with more measured statements. Buster Williams took the longest solo on this tune and when the rest of the band returned Cobb traded twelve bar solos again with Walton and Jackson. The quartet slowed things down with “Old Folks,” featuring solos from Jackson, Walton and Williams and a closing cadenza from Jackson that could melt your heart. Things really started to cook when the band launched into “Sixth Avenue,” which features a “Sidewinder”-meets-Samba groove that moves into a swing feel at times. Jackson was the dominant voice on the head of this tune. Following a sure-footed solo from Walton, Jackson unleashed some fiery saxophone soloing that really electrified the room. Javon Jackson is something to marvel at, with his impressive ideas, strong technique and a warm tone that is consistent across the whole range of the instrument and through the entire spectrum of dynamics.

Jimmy Cobb took the last solo here before the band brought the song to its conclusion. “Up Jumped Spring,” one of Freddie Hubbard’s best known tunes, was performed in tribute to the late trumpet genius and Jackson caressed the melody on this jazz waltz. Strong solos from Jackson, Walton and Williams added to the magic and this, along with the aforementioned“Sixth Avenue,” proved to be the high points of the set. The band chose to end the evening with some up-tempo swing and the solo action was fierce. Walton and Cobb seemed to enjoy trading solos and Cobb contributed his strongest drum soloing of the evening here, shortly before this dynamic set came to a close.

 

BACK TO ROCKVILLE
The Music Blog of the Kansas City Star

June 17, 2007
By: Michael Judge

The Javon Jackson Group with Dr. Lonnie Smith and Les McCann Jackson’s band definitely plays jazz-funk, but it’s jazz-funk of a sort that includes absolutely nothing cloying or saccharine. The athletic, heavy quartet plays a stripped-down sort of guerrilla funk with as much drawn from James Brown and Fela Kuti as Miles and the genre’s ’70s legends.

They embody the unique combination of warmth and get-on-the-good-foot intensity often found in the best of their style. Jackson’s friendly demeanor and muscular, jocular solos providing the amiability and the fury coming from the truly immense sounds of bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Rudy

Royston, a man who doesn’t play fills as much as he triggers avalanches. Special mention goes to guitarist David Gilmore, who deals with what must be the continual annoyance of not being that David Gilmour in the best possible way: His solos left the people in back going nuts and the people in front scurrying to lift their jaws off the grass.

It’s a well-known legend that Miles planned to record with Jimi Hendrix before the latter’s untimely death, and one imagines that the result might’ve sounded something like Gilmore’s playing Saturday afternoon. He’s harmonically expansive, deeply lyrical, and (when necessary) blindingly fleet. Don’t be surprised if the next guitarist with his name has to live up to his legacy as well as the Pink Floyd Gilmour’s.

Things only improved with the entrance of the legendarily eccentric Dr. Lonnie Smith. He’s the kind of man that can append “Dr.” to his name and wear a turban while performing for, in his own words, “no particular reason” and make both seem logical, even necessary. A true master of the Hammond organ, his rhythmic and tonal acuity are such that he can ride out a single note with a few chord stabs here and there for 32 bars and not only is it not, boring, it’s charismatically arresting.

He almost instantly transformed from the quizzical guy in the turban to Most Benevolent High Priest of Funk, playing in a sort of continual dance with hands-waving benedictions overhead and the organ shouting the cosmic blessings. He ?earned a standing ovation after his first tune.

After a smoking version of the good doctor’s “If You See Kay” (say that slowly to yourself), in which the band vamped unbelievably hard and Smith got further and further out with the bluesy chord changes until they were somewhere in deep space, the assembly was joined by the godfather of soul-jazz, pianist Les McCann.

Though he was led onstage by a flock of assistants, the 71-year old McCann quickly established himself as the group’s rowdiest — and most senior — presence. Not a lot of septuagenarians will introduce themselves with the line, “It’s been a while since I was back in this sad-ass town,” and then let out a gruff cackle, but McCann might as well be 25 for the effect the years have had on his playing and personality.

His pianism still takes the frenzied testifying of a Pentecostal church and plants it firmly in the red-light district, all funky double stops and
rhythmic broadsides. The furious version of his classic “Compared to What?” was perhaps the highlight of the entire festival: As he belted out the lines, “The President, he’s got his war / Folks don’t know just what it’s for / Nobody gives us rhyme or reason / Have one doubt, they call it treason,” the flames coming from Smith and the Jackson group climbed higher and higher and all was in harmony.

All About Jazz
Reviewed by C. Michael Bailey
Javon Jackson – Easy Does It

Javon Jackson’s band on Easy Does It is not unlike the Wayne Shorter-Curtis Fuller Jazz Messengers…both boast superb lineups, but only Jackson and his band are steeped in the 21st Century Groove. Mr. Jackson’s previous five recordings for Blue Note established him as fresh new voice in jazz, unafraid of stirring things up a bit. He took that attitude and shot it at light-speed into the Palmetto studios to produce a funk masterpiece.

Mr. Jackson has chosen the right band for such an auspicious occasion. Dr. Lonnie Smith is a groove physician, prescribing grease and greens to all that wears one down. He provides his blues “If You See Kay” to kick things off. Blues… is that what you call this? Jackson’s own “Papa Lou” is definitely a blues circa 1960s Jimmy Smith.

Mark Whitfield plays an understated role here, providing that necessary guitar groove to pieces like Marvin Gaye’s “Right On” and Jackson’s “Kiss,” adding a little wah-wah to the latter. Lenny White shows why he was so indispensable to Return to Forever’s sound in the ‘70s. Dr. Smith plays orchestrally on every song he touches. On the title cut, his footwork is potent, laying down a mud thick groove over which Jackson and Whitfield converse. Whitfield gets his most authoritative workout here with Jackson playing harmony and beginning what one hopes is a long relationship with the guitarist. Easy Does It is exactly what Dr. Jazz ordered.