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 Bordersbooks.com, Barnesandnobles.com, JavonJackson.com, Amazon, Virgin, Tower Records and Palmetto.com. 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.”