DownBeat Magazine, December 2012
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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