DownBeat Magazine, December 2012
* * * *
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

A link to the article can be found here.

“Many times in jazz the personnel that comes together in a special way is the result of second choices or just plain serendipity. So too with the pairing of Javon Jackson and Les McCann who have been performing together at clubs and festivals, including a recent concert at the Cape May Jazz Festival. Seeing the two mesh onstage, it would be hard to imagine that the legendary McCann was originally a sub or fill-in.”

Jazz Improv NY May 2009

Cedar Walton/Javon
Jackson/Buster Williams/
Jimmy Cobb
Live at Iridium – April 11, 2009

Reviewed by Dan Bilawsky

While the second set at the Iridium, on this cool April evening, didn’t start right on time, the music more than made up for this little set back. Once these men were on the bandstand they wasted no time and Cedar Walton announced the first tune, appropriately titled “Cedar’s Blues.” While things seemed tentative at first, the music really loosened up once Javon Jackson let loose with some fine saxophone soloing. Walton threw in a nice chromatic line and created some rhythmic tension during his piano solo and Buster Williams showed great dexterity during his solo spot. Williams can create a sustained note like few others and he can also play loose and flowing when he chooses. Jimmy Cobb had some fun trading twelves with Walton and Jackson and he took an extended solo before the whole band jumped back in to finish things off.

“Holy Land” began with a solo piano introduction and Walton mixed flurries of notes with more measured statements. Buster Williams took the longest solo on this tune and when the rest of the band returned Cobb traded twelve bar solos again with Walton and Jackson. The quartet slowed things down with “Old Folks,” featuring solos from Jackson, Walton and Williams and a closing cadenza from Jackson that could melt your heart. Things really started to cook when the band launched into “Sixth Avenue,” which features a “Sidewinder”-meets-Samba groove that moves into a swing feel at times. Jackson was the dominant voice on the head of this tune. Following a sure-footed solo from Walton, Jackson unleashed some fiery saxophone soloing that really electrified the room. Javon Jackson is something to marvel at, with his impressive ideas, strong technique and a warm tone that is consistent across the whole range of the instrument and through the entire spectrum of dynamics.

Jimmy Cobb took the last solo here before the band brought the song to its conclusion. “Up Jumped Spring,” one of Freddie Hubbard’s best known tunes, was performed in tribute to the late trumpet genius and Jackson caressed the melody on this jazz waltz. Strong solos from Jackson, Walton and Williams added to the magic and this, along with the aforementioned“Sixth Avenue,” proved to be the high points of the set. The band chose to end the evening with some up-tempo swing and the solo action was fierce. Walton and Cobb seemed to enjoy trading solos and Cobb contributed his strongest drum soloing of the evening here, shortly before this dynamic set came to a close.


Jazz Review
Once Upon A Melody

By: Thomas R. Erdmann

It’s amazing how consistently good Denver-raised, saxophonist Javon Jackson is. His ability, disc after disc, to deliver, at the highest artistic level, music that is not just technically proficient and full of the spirit of jazz’s tradition, but also esthetically pleasing and a whole lot of fun to listen to, is beyond compare. With his latest release, Once Upon A Melody, Jackson again releases another incredible tome of the finest straight-ahead jazz available.

Jackson’s background includes time as a student at both the University of Denver and the Berklee College of Music before joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Since then, in addition to a lot of work as a leader, Jackson has worked with Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter and Charlie Haden, to name but only a few of the legends who have wanted Jackson’s unique musical mind and sentiments in their bands . In addition to his performing, Jackson currently teaches at SUNY Purchase.

On Once Jackson is accompanied by totally underappreciated and most assuredly talent-deserving-wider-recognition pianist Eric Reed, young newcomer Corcoran Holt on bass, and drum-percussion jazz legend Billy Drummond. Jackson and band lay out eight standards – or tunes that should be standards – along with two Jackson originals.

The ensemble is so in-sync at times it’s hard to know where one musician ends and the others begin. On ‘Will You Still Be Mine,’ for example, Reed’s slightly pulsative eighth-note chordal fragment alternations behind Jackson fit so perfectly it sounds like one musician subtlety singing his heart out. Then, no matter how many times you listen to this track, you’ll never be able to figure out Drummond and Holt were able to make their accompaniment sound so locked into Reed’s rhythmic framework. Much too rarely can one hear a single intent coming from four musicians to the extent exhibited here, but engaged in the creation of a seamless balance they are.

The same kind of rapport is again heard on Reed’s lilting solo on Jackson’s original, ‘Mr. Jones.’ Drummond is truly the master of understatement that is yet so full of statement you’ll absolutely schedule time to enrapture yourself in his shifting backbeat punctuations that are gloriously both in and out of time at the same time.

Eschewing pomp and flash for tenderness and emotive response, Jackson chooses tunes and tempos throughout that serve the rapport of the members rather than flashy displays of technical mastery. For this the listener is richly rewarded with an hour or so of meaningful jazz you’ll find yourself listening to over and over. Rather than being one those discs, like gum, that lose their flavor after just a few chews, you’ll come back repeatedly.