Saxophonist Javon Jackson

Javon Anthony Jackson (born June 16, 1965) is an American jazz tenor saxophonist, bandleader and educator. He came into international prominence as a member of the legendary Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers from 1986 until Blakey’s death in 1990 [1]. Jackson went on to release 20 recordings as a bandleader and tour and record on over 150 CDs with jazz greats including Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Haden, Betty Carter, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Stanley Turrentine and Ben E. King.

Part of a new generation of musicians that blends tradition with neo-jazz, Jackson’s own bands feature straight ahead jazz, hard bop, soul and funk.  Widely recognized for his diverse styles, Javon was tapped to play on Tupac Shakur’s “Keep Ya Head Up” in 1993.[2]

Jackson was named Chair of the University of Hartford’s Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz Studies in 2013. [3] In 2019, Newport Festivals Foundation expanded the reach of its popular Newport Jazz Assembly program with the introduction of the Jackie McLean Jazz Studies Jazz Assembly, under the direction of the saxophonist and educator. [4]  Jackson also serves as Artistic Director of Jazz in the Valley, an annual music festival in the historic Hudson Valley, now in its 20th year. [5]

Early Life

Born in Carthage, Missouri, Javon Jackson was raised in Denver, Colorado. He chose alto saxophone at the age of 10, but six years later, he switched to tenor saxophone. Jackson attended the University of Denver before transferring to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He left Berklee in 1986 to join Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, where he performed alongside pianist Benny Green, trumpeter Philip Harper, trombonist Robin Eubanks and bassist Peter Washington. Jackson was a staple in the Jazz Messengers until Blakey’s death in 1990.


University of Denver, Denver, CO 1983 (Attended)

Berklee College of Music, Boston, MA  Bachelor in Music Degree 1999

State University of New York at Purchase, Purchase, NY    Master of Music Degree 2003



In addition to his busy performance schedule, Javon Jackson is a highly sought-after jazz educator, conducting clinics and lectures at universities, colleges and elementary and secondary schools nationally and internationally. He served as Assistant Professor of Jazz at Long Island University in New York (1996-1998) and at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College in Purchase, NY (1999-2007). Professor Jackson has been Director of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the University of Hartford since 2013. He serves as Chair of Jazz for the National YoungArts Foundation and is also a member of JEN (Jazz Education Network), where he assists as JENerations Jazz Festival’s Artist and Clinician Coordinator.



2009    Full-length score [6] for Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger” for the Syracuse International Film Festival.  The original score debuted at the festival and was performed live by Jackson at the film’s screening in October 2010.


1992    Javon Jackson was featured in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” [7] starring Denzel Washington.  In the role of saxophonist/bandleader Illinois Jacquet, Jackson performed the iconic Lionel Hampton/Benny Goodman standard “Flying Home.” [8]


2012    Benny Golson Award, [9] Howard University, Washington, DC, for recognition of legendary excellence in jazz


In 1991, Javon Jackson made his recording debut on Criss Cross Jazz with Me and Mr. Jones, featuring James Williams, Christian McBride and master drummer Elvin Jones. The following year, he joined Jones’ group, appearing on the drummer’s albums Youngblood and Going Home. Jackson made his Blue Note debut in 1993 with When the Time Is Right, produced by the renowned vocalist and bandleader Betty Carter. He recorded five more recordings for the Blue Note label through the ‘90s, including a diverse range of music by Caetano Veloso, Frank Zappa, Santana, Muddy Waters and Al Green.

Jackson also released four recordings for the Palmetto label, where he explored a mix of funk, jazz and soul with organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, guitarists Mark Whitfield and David Gilmore, trombonist Fred Wesley and drummer Lenny White, among others. He also presented three recordings for the Chesky label, including Three’s Company, featuring powerhouse bandmates bassist Ron Carter and drummer Billy Drummond. Javon introduced his own label, Solid Jackson Records, in 2012, coming out of the box with Celebrating John Coltrane, which featured former Coltrane collaborator and drummer Jimmy Cobb. That same year, he released Lucky 13 on Solid Jackson, this time highlighting the dynamic soul-jazz keyboardist Les McCann. The recording included McCann’s 1969 hit, “Compared to What,” as well as Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing.”   His 20th album as a leader and the third on his label, For You was released in 2018 and received critical and audience acclaim for Jackson’s collection of original tunes, plus standards and some favorites by several jazz elders.

According to a 2019 JazzTimes review [10] of For You: With tradition always in mind but keeping the settings varied, Jackson salutes mentors, inspirations, and family, among others. His love of Sonny Rollins is clear as day on “I’m Old Fashioned,” he mines Wayne Shorter’s shuffling “Backstage Sally” for all its worth, and he puts the album to rest with some gusty statements on the McCoy Tyner-inspired “88 Strong.” His ray-of-sunshine demeanor also proves to be a key component of the production, lighting up Cedar Walton’s “Simple Pleasure” and bassist David Williams’ tropically infused “Native Son.” When not dealing with searing heat or pure light, Jackson can be found wearing his heart on his horn. He lends true grace to “Lelia,” a ballad dedicated to a cousin who was taken too soon by cancer.


As a Leader

Title                             Label                                                  Year

Me and Mr. Jones     Criss Cross Jazz                                  1991

Burnin′                        Criss Cross Jazz                                  1991(Billy Pierce, co-leader)

New York Unit            Paddle Wheel                                      1992

When the Time Is Right     Blue Note                                     1993

For One Who Knows           Blue Note                                     1995

Blue Spirit                             Blue Note                                      1996(collective featuring Greg Osby, Tim Hagans,Kevin Hays, Essiet Essiet and Bill Stewart)

A Look Within                      Blue Note                                            1996

Good People                          Blue Note                                             1997

Pleasant Valley                     Blue Note                                             1999

Easy Does It                           Palmetto                                               2002

Have You Heard?                 Palmetto                                                2005

Now                                        Palmetto                                                 2006

New York Time                    Chesky                                                     2006(with Cedar Walton,Christian McBride and Jimmy Cobb)

Sugar Hill: Music of Duke Ellington        Chesky                              2007

Once Upon a Melody              Palmetto                                               2008

Celebrating John Coltrane        Solid Jackson                                    2012

Lucky 13                                      Solid Jackson                                      2012

Expression                                  Smoke Sessions                                   2014

Three’s Company                       Chesky                                                   2016(with Ron Carter and Billy Drummond)

For You                                           Solid Jackson                                       2018

As a Sideman

Art Blakey                      Hard Champion          Paddle Whee            1987

Art Blakey                        Blue Moon                    Jazz Zounds              1987

Benny Green                    Prelude                 Criss Cross Jazz Art         1987

Blakey                              Not Yet                       Soul Note                       1988

Art Blakey                        Standards                    Paddle Whee              1988

Freddie Hubbard           Feel The Wind            Timeless                       1988

Art Blakey                        I Get a Kick Out of Bu   Soul Note                  1988

Art Blakey                        The Art of Jazz                    In & Out               1989

Brian Lynch                     Back Room Blues     Criss Cross Jazz              1989

Art Blakey                        Chippin’ In                      Timeless                      1990

Art Blakey                        One for All                      A&M                           1990

Brian Lynch                     In Process                     Ken Music                   1991

The Harper Brothers       Artistry                        Verve                          1991

Justin Robinson                Justin Time                  Verve                          1991

Mickey Tucker                  Hang in There           Steeplechase                1991

Freddie Hubbard           Live at Fat Tuesday’s   MusicMasters              1991

Tom Williams                  Introducing Tom Williams          Criss Cross Jazz          1991

Rebecca Coupe Franks           All of a Sudden      Justice                         1992

Elvin Jones                    Youngblood                        Enja                             1992

Elvin Jones                    Going Home                        Enja                             1992

Pete Yellin                     Colors of Brooklyn             Alfa Jazz                     1992

Philip Harper               Soulful Sin                            Muse                           1993

Cedar Walton              Art Blakey Legacy                Evidence                     1993

Cedar Walton              Bambino: Plays Art Blakey    Evidence                  1993

Louis Hayes                 The Super Quartet                  Timeless                      1994

Freddie Hubbard                    MMTC                           MusicMasters              1994

Louis Hayes                   Blue Lou                                  Steeplechase                1994

Freddie Cole                  Always                                      Fantasy                        1994

Bob Belden                    Shades of Blue                         Blue Note                    1995

Monday Michiru          Jazz Brat                                   Verve Forecast            1995

Ron Carter                    Mr. Bow-Tie                               Verve                          1995

Essence All-Stars          Hub Art                                   Hip Bop Essence         1995

Denise Jannah              I Was Born in Love with You          Blue Note                    1995

Lenny White                Renderers of Spirit                  Silva Screen                1996

Cecilia Smith                 High Standards                              Broone                 1996

Tom Browne                  Another Shade of Browne            Hip Bop Essence         1996

Bob Belden                     Strawberry Fields                  Blue Note                    1996

Roberta Piket                  Unbroken Line                       Criss Cross Jazz          1996

Louis Hayes                            Louis at Large                         Sharp Nine                  1996

Essence All-Stars                    Jackie’s Blues Bag           Hip Bop Essence          1996

James Williams & ICU        We’ve Got What You Need!     Evidence                     1996

Freddy Cole                 To The Ends of the Earth         Fantasy                        1997

Various Artists             Yule Be Boppin’                                 Blue Note                    1997

Tim Hagans/                 Hubsongs                                            Blue Note                    1997

Marcus Printup

Brad Leali                               Priority Soul                                 New Jazz           1998


David Hazeltine                      A World for Her                                 Criss Cross Jazz          1998

Various Artists                        Thank You, Joe!                                  Arkadia Jazz     1999

Nat Yarbrough                        El Yabah           Capri                 1999

New Jazz Composers              New Colors                      Hip Bop Essence         2001


Vanessa Rubin                        Girl Talk         Telarc                          2001

Akbar DePriest                       Inclusion       DePriest Project          2001

Marlene Rosenberg                 Pieces of…     Bassline                       2001

Charlie Haden                  Live in Montreal (DVD)                   Image                        2002


Donald Harrison             Kind of New            Candid                                2002

Curtis Fuller                  Keep It Simple             Savant                         2003

Arlington Houston       Cool Casual               Arlingtonia Music       2003

Doug Munro         Big Boss Bossa Nova                         Chase Music                2004

John Hicks              Sweet Love of Mine                           High Note                   2006

Candida Rose           Kabumerikana: The Sum of Me          Candida Rose             2006

Marty Olivas             Being Gemini              CD Baby                     2006

Various Artists         Jazz Classics in A Funky Vibe            BMH Productions       2006

April Hill             Love 360                            Jazzy Peach                 2007

Terry ‘Doc’ Handy         Kinfolks                   CD Baby                     2007

Ron Carter            Jazz & Bossa                     Blue Note                    2008

Ben E. King            Heart & Soul                    Kanam                         2010

David Chesky        Jazz in The New Harmonic      Chesky              2013

Dave Stryker          Messin’ With Mr. T         Strikezone                   2014

David Chesky          Primal Scream                 Chesky                        2015