Sounds of Timeless Jazz

Lenny White, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Fred Wesley, and Mark Whitfield are just a few of Javon Jackson’s friends that help him pull off a fusion of funk, jazz and soul on his debut for Palmetto Records titled Easy Does It. For those familiar with Jackson’s previous recordings, this CD is a totally new direction and far from the easy pace you may be expecting because of the title.

Most of the songs are funky and soulful with just a hint of jazz. However, several of Jackson’s straight-ahead jazz solos and intermittent solos by Hammond B3 organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and trombonist Fred Wesley such as those heard on “Right On” and “Wake Up Everybody” make buying this CD worthwhile. The instrumental version of this Marvin Gaye hit has a great new arrangement and works on all levels. Jackson plays a haunting, Coltrane-esque introduction on “Wake Up Everybody” and that is about the most memorable jazz moment on this song.

Vocalist Eve Cornelious has a hard act to follow when she brings in her funky rap rendition of how the world’s social ills still permeate the 21st century. Because of this song’s heavy lyrics and the symbolism Teddy Pendergrass conveyed with his exceptional trademark voice, listeners will most likely find themselves reminiscing about how well Pendergrass sang the song instead of hearing Ms. Cornelious’ new rap. The tempo chosen for “Easy Does It” definitely fits the title and the mood of the song. This is just what this CD needed — easy, head nodding, feet tapping jazz. Jackson’s smoky saxophone sound sets a great groove that allows you to just fall in and lay back. Overall, if you want to add this to your list of “funky party favorites,” this CD works well. But for those in a jazzier mood, check out “Right On,” “Easy Does It” and the retro soul/jazz feel of DJ Soul.

PowersSound Review
Reviewed by Bob Powers
Javon Jackson – Easy Does It

My love for funk goes back to the very beginnings of this informal but infectious genre of modern music. Now if you add just a generous helping of jazz and the soul-stirring tenor saxophone of Javon Jackson, the result is an album that should spend a lot of time on your turntable over the next few months. Easy Does It (Palmetto Records) should make Jackson the next big thing. The album will demand hours of playing time, yet this funky group of musicians won’t wear out their welcome by next Saturday night. Jackson, who had five releases on Blue Note Records, seems on the verge of becoming a national music idol. His work on tenor avoids the honk school and the tone he achieves can be quite fetching. The session includes the wonderful Dr. Lonnie Smith making the funkiest sound on earth on the magnificent Hammond B3 organ. Lenny White, who paid dues as a fusion performer, hunches over the drum kit.

Philadelphia Inquirer Review
Reviewed by Karl Stark
Javon Jackson – Easy Does It
(Palmetto ***1/2)  

Saxophonist Javon Jackson plays funk with a slow hand. This former Jazz Messenger, among the last to contribute to that legacy, doesn’t beat matters to a froth but allows them to come to fruition in their own time. This approach to groove calls for the clear arrangements that focus the senses nicely on Jackson’s titillating tenor and Dr. Lonnie Smith’s snaky organ.

The band is full of sympathetic vibe-meisters, including guitarist Mark Whitfield, who heats up accompaniments with percussive shadings and performs a delicate duet with Jackson on the leader’s winsome “Diane.” Former James Brown trombonist Fred Wesley gurgles to good effect, and drummer Lenny White keeps everybody striding forward to a ramrod beat.

Much of this is a sassy throwback to the 1970s. “House Party” comes off as the musical equivalent of an Afro, with earthy vocals by Wesley and Eve Cornelious. A good funkin’ time is had by all.


Midwest Record Recap
* * *
Chris Spector, Editor and Publisher
Javon Jackson – Easy Does It

Just because he dumped his Blue Note days for the groves of academe doesn’t mean there’s any dust on this guy, not with a band of Mark Whitfield, Fred Wesley, Lonnie Smith and Lenny White. Just because he’s in the groves, that doesn’t mean he’s traded in the grooves. This bad boy funky set has got everything you could want in a jazzy, groove set. It’s the kind of smoking outing that ought to be on a major and the fact that it isn’t shows you these companies are troubled by bored millionaires running them, not in the in roads of Kazaa. This baby really cooks one fine saxy stew…

(c)2003 Midwest Record Recap
The voice of the entertainment retailer and broadcaster  

The Independent Weekly Review
Reviewed by Joe Vanderford
Javon Jackson – Easy Does It

Surrounded by soul stirrers like Hammond wiz Lonnie Smith and Durham diva Eve Cornelious, tenor Jackson recalls the inter-city jazz circuit of the ’50s, when organ trios ruled the roost. Got a friend who snuggles with Smooth Jazz, but wants to inch a bit closer to something real? This is the ticket.

Javon also interviewed in feature story here.

Reviewed by Don Williamson

Javon Jackson – Have You Heard

Javon Jackson’s got his groove back. Starting with his first Palmetto release, Easy Does It, Jackson gave his listeners a taste of funk in a style influenced as much by R&B, James Brown and Prince as by Art Blakey, whose Jazz Messengers Jackson joined immediately upon leaving the Berklee University of Music. Just as fellow Jazz Messengers like Wallace Roney, Terence Blanchard, Geoff Keezer and Kenny Garrett have grown to pursue their own interests, essentially explorative expressions of their personalities, so has Jackson grown through successive work with Elvin Jones, Charlie Haden, Jacky Terrasson and Christian McBride.

But in moving forward, Jackson is looking back, particularly toward the boogaloo made popular by Lou Donaldson in the late 1960’s. Shrewdly, and no doubt because he’s energized by the organist’s presence, Jackson has recruited Dr. Lonnie Smith to back him up on both Palmetto releases, first Easy Does It and now Have You Heard. In the process, Smith is as responsible for setting the mood of the CD as is Jackson as they feed off each other to develop the grooves of each song into deeper and deeper soulfulness. “Have You Heard” itself suggests Donaldson’s “One Cylinder,” which was built upon a single chord, thus necessitating that the feeling of the music depend upon the immersion of the instrumentalists into the gospel-derived emotion. Jackson obviously recognizes the benefits of working with Smith, one of the few remaining B-3 organists from the circuits of the sixties and early seventies, when he includes the blues, “Dr Smith,” which not only allows Jackson to stretch out with fluidity and passion, but also showcases Smith’s one-of-a-kind dynamics—a throwback to the too-seldom-heard jazz organ work more common a generation ago, but also incorporating a style all his own.

Vocalist Lisa Fischer, a back-up singer for The Rolling Stones and Luther Vandross, appears on three of the songs, adding another dimension to the music, just as a blues singer would to an instrumental blues group. Moaning and cooing at the introduction of “Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home” as if in warm-up, Fischer huskily comes in at low volume and lower range for the first chorus, as if understating the drama of the song’s theme, before she raises the temperature before the blues-guitar-riffing conclusion of the song. On “Dance Floor,” with similar boogaloo rhythm, Fischer indeed does provide vocal back-up, accenting Jackson’s sinuous soloing throughout the number with some “shake shake shake’s” and “oo-oo-aah’s”.

The other notable member of Jackson’s group if guitarist Mark Whitfield, who immerses “Summertime” in as much funk as possible with his jaunty distorted guitar lines while Jackson goes legato over the propulsion. On the backbeat-driven “Quik,” the entire group from the start lays down a cohesive and infectious vamp, driven by bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Terr eon Gully, that Jackson and quickly adopt and then transform through witty improvisation.

Though Javon Jackson has pursued various paths in his search for fulfillment in the 15 years since he left the Jazz Messengers upon Blakey’s passing, it appears now that the one he enjoys the most is watching his audiences get on their feet and dance or clap in place and become one with the music, the separation between stage and seating areas evaporated. Plus, it appears that Palmetto Records is broadening its scope by signing entertaining, crowd-pleasing artists like Jackson and Smith. Listeners who are more interested in the immediate impact of the music than in analyzing or categorizing it no doubt will enjoy Have You Heard immensely.

Javon Jackson And His Band — Playing That Funky Music
By Deardra Shuler

Saxophonist Javon Jackson was wailing up a storm at the Jazz Standard, located at 116 East 27th Street in Manhattan and what a show it was. The man is hardly short on talent and in fact, I found his show spectacular. Jackson’s band was so hot, the tamales were grooving. His eclectic blend of R&B, jazz, bits of soft rock, and funk caused stiffs to limber and I even saw some robots bopping their heads, especially when guitarist Mark Whitfield, made his guitar scream some funky, funky notes. Former Tonight Show Band bassist Kenny Davis plucked some swingin strings while Terreon Gulley followed suit on the percussions with a beat that was the call to the wild that took everyone back to Africa, irrespective of their persuasion.

Born in Carthage, Missouri, a small town outside Kansas City, Missouri, Jackson was raised in Denver, Colorado. “My parents were big, big music fans but widely jazz fans. I heard it all from my earliest beginnings growing up at home. My father would take me out to hear jazz musicians so I heard folks like Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon and others at a very young age. That was very inspiring and gave me a great desire to pursue jazz music. I started to go to different jazz clubs as time went on. I sat in on sets so that I could learn the ends and outs of jazz and try to develop the way they did,” remarked Javon. “I started playing the sax around 10 years old. My father played trumpet for a while as a kid and my mother played piano, so music came natural. Both my parents definitely had a musical center. Initially, I wanted to play the drums but my father said the drums were too loud so that nixed that. He did agree that I could play the trumpet but I didn’t like the way the trumpet looked,” noted the diverse performer. “Saxophone was really my third choice. I started playing it and found I enjoyed it. No one had to make me practice because I really got into it and it was really something I wanted to do. I started playing in junior high groups, high school bands and then I got chosen for The McDonald’s All-American Band and from there decided to go to Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music after being at Denver University for about a quarter or so.” He earned his master’s degree in music. Mr. Jackson also holds a position as Assistant Professor of Jazz Education at SUNY Purchase College.

While at Berklee, Javon studied under the tutelage of saxophonist Billy Pierce and pianist Donald Brown who were former members of the legendary Jazz Messengers, led by Art Blakey. “I wanted to play with the Jazz Messengers right away but Branford Marsalis encouraged me to go to Berklee instead. Brandford’s younger brother, Delfio, was the representative from Louisiana chosen for the McDonald’s All-American Band. I met Branford through Delfio. My relationship with Branford grew because I was a great fan of Branford’s and he has been very helpful to me, even to this day. Branford thought I needed to learn technique first. I eventually played with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and was with them for 3 years and 9 months,” said the father of two.

Jackson toured with Freddie Hubbard, Elvin Jones, Charlie Haden and Cedar Walton eventually creating his own recording career. This led to “Burnin’ and Me and Mr. Jones” on the Criss Cross Label. He then signed with Blue Note Records and recorded six CDs for the label working with artists such as Betty Carter, Greg Osby and Bill Stewart.

“From a saxophonist standpoint, I think people like Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson, and Wayne Shorter have had an influence on my music. Even non-sax players like Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and even R&B music has influenced me. I have listened to Parliament. I love Sly and the Family Stone and Prince. Many of these artists have helped me grow in my sound and have enabled me to fuse these different sounds into a warm, harmonious blend that has become part of my music,” claims the gifted artist.

Jackson has written 4 songs on his new CD that just came out June 14th and is available at,,, Amazon, Virgin, Tower Records and The CD is recorded by Mr. Jackson with his group ‘The Javon Jackson Band’ consisting of drummer Terreon Gulley; bassist Kenny Davis and guitarist Mark Whitfield. His CD is entitled, ‘Have You Heard.’ “I have written the music on basically all my records because I think its very important to develop the writing aspect. I have a song called “Quik” on my CD, which is an original. “Have You Heard” is an original and the name of my CD. I wrote Quik for Mark Whitfield. Also on the CD, I covered songs by Curtis Mayfield and Bobby Womack. “Summertime” by Gershwin and also a Roger Troutman song called “Dance Floor by Zapp.” The band plans to be in Detroit, Houston and back out on the West Coast in the near future. They also plan to travel to Europe on July 7th. “We will be playing the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland and touring Rome, Sorrento and Albeania. I’m looking forward to doing that,” said Javon enthusiastically.

During his downtime, Jackson loves to spend time with his family, read and socialize with friends. “All the things I enjoy doing are reflected in my music one way or another. My plan is to give as much as I can and let the rest take care of itself.”

Saxman Jackson channels happy notes

Newark Star Ledger
Friday, July 25, 2003
By Zan Stewart
Star-Ledger Staff

“I’m just trying to find a center that feels good,” says tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson. “All the guys that I love, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Gene Ammons, they feel good, and the music on this record speaks to that.”

The West Orange-based Jackson is talking about his just-out CD, Easy Does It (Palmetto), which takes him into a new area. It’s a mix of funk, R&B and jazz tunes that is more about feeling than anything else. Some of the tunes, like the ballad “Diane,” come at you in a subtle way. Others, like “House Party,” can get you up and dancing.

“I wanted to make something that felt good, that presented a happy atmosphere,” says Jackson.

Jackson appears Thursday through Aug. 2 at the Jazz Standard in Manhattan with his Split Second band, featuring the Hammond B-3 organ. On the record, Dr. Lonnie Smith is the organist; at the Jazz Standard, Sam Yahel will fill that chair. Two other long-time colleagues of Jackson’s — drummer Lenny White and Jersey City-based guitarist Mark Whitfield — recorded the CD and will be performing.

“I enjoyed making this record, playing in this emotionally direct way,” says Jackson, 37, a native of Carthage, Mo., who grew up in Denver and has been living in New Jersey since 1998. “And Lenny, Sam and Mark play more from what they hear than what they know, and that gives us more options. As a group, we’re taking chances, seeing what comes out. That’s a great experience for me.”

Jackson came into prominence through his 1987-90 tenure with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Later came appearances with another drum master, Elvin Jones, the trumpet great Freddie Hubbard and bass ace Ron Carter. He’s made several albums as a leader. His A-1 “Pleasant Valley” (Blue Note, 1999), employed his occasional sideman, West Orange guitarist Dave Stryker, as well as organist Larry Goldings.

“Organ allows me to go a lot of different directions,” says Jackson. “I can play soul, jazz, ballads, rock, a funk groove. And I like the way my tenor matches the organ.”

Jackson knew by age 12 that he wanted to be a professional musician. His father took him to see Duke Ellington, played him records by Sonny Stitt. Studying saxophonists like Stitt, Ammons, Coltrane, Joe Henderson and Rollins rooted Jackson in music’s fundamentals. “That gives you the confidence to take more chances,” he says.

Playing with Blakey, after three years at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, was primary to everything he’s accomplished, Jackson says.

“It gave me confidence, professionalism, leadership abilities, seriousness,” he says. “Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It was through Art that I met most of the guys I worked with — Elvin, Freddie. I grew up in his band. He turned me into a man.”

Asked what he likes about playing, Jackson says, “It’s the unknown.” He laughs. “You have to (offer) your emotions and thought process. It’s a real challenge to get (at) what’s inside you so that people can feel it. Music gives you the greatest feeling — you do what you love to do, something you’d do for free.”