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.


O’s Place Review
Reviewed by Bob Powers
Javon Jackson – Easy Does It

O’s Notes: Combine the musical genius of drummer Lenny White, Mark Whitfield (g) and Dr. Lonnie Smith (organ) with Javon’s tenor sax and something funky is sure to surface. It does on Easy Does It, Javon’s Palmetto debut, a walk on the contemporary, retro soul side. Eve Cornelious adds some deep throaty vocals on two tracks to give it a modern feel. It will have you remembering the 1970s grooves while appreciating today’s cool jazz mindset, definitely a winner.

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.