Monday, February 10, 2014

Javon Jackson CD review - NYC Jazz Record

At the close of this live set from New York’s Smoke
jazz club, tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson announces
that this is his first live album as a leader. Hard to
believe he’s made it through a 25+-year career without
doing one but all that practice has helped to make him
a charming frontman. Throughout the set he runs a
streak of intricate lines and swinging turns-of-phrase,
no doubt inspired by his audience and driven by a
solid band.

His quartet opens with one of the great tunes from
the book of his former employer Art Blakey, Wayne
Shorter’s “One By One”. That tune made its premiere
50 years earlier on Blakey’s live album Ugetsu, recorded
at Birdland. Drummer McClenty Hunter is initially a
little modest wielding a Blakey-esque wrecking ball
but his driving swing gradually builds to a muscular
pace as Jackson soars ahead. The stomping enthusiasm
happily peaks with Orrin Evans’ pounding piano solo.

Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry About A
Thing” carries the momentum further. The tune has
been a modern standard in Jackson’s repertoire at least
since he recorded it for his 1999 Blue Note release
Pleasant Valley and he is faithful in his reading of the
melody. A forceful intensity is heaped on top of the
arrangement. Hunter wallops the tune until he’s
granted some space to solo over Jackson and Evans’
repeated closing riff to great effect.

The band addresses two amorous pleas with
“Where is the Love?” and “When I Fall In Love”, Evans
delivering a bluesy stab on the former while offering a
more contemplative stroll through the latter. Jackson
follows with a gentle melodic solo that moves with the
expected confidence of a veteran.

The Smoke Sessions label aims to roll out these
dynamic live sets by road-tested veterans steadily. It’s
an ambitious trend for business owners who don’t
think the stress of running a jazz club is enough. So far,
so good.

Javon Jackson @ NYC Jazz Record

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