A veteran performer who has worked with such artists as David Murray and Hamiet Bluiett, pianist D.D. Jackson has just recently started to develop his creative vision through the establishment of his own working ensemble. Canadian bred and New York based, the 33-year-old musician has recorded a half dozen albums for the small Justin Time label and earlier this year released his sophomore album for RCA Victor, Anthem. A strange twist of fate helped Jackson to assemble his new group this past March, the latest album already on the streets and tours in support of the record up and coming. Jackson had met Columbus native Chris Howes through David Murray and the energetic and electrifying violinist had already been part of the Anthem project. Looking to round out the band, Jackson ended up hitting it off with two other Columbus musicians, electric bassist Andy Woodson and drummer James Gaiters. Jackson has found much to inspire him in this ensemble, which boasts not even one New York jazzer, but a trio of world-class musicians who certainly have nothing to be ashamed of regarding their midwestern backgrounds. A tour of Japan in September was followed by several Ohio dates, which included a one-night stand in Dayton. With no cover or minimum, patrons were treated to three sets by the D.D. Jackson Group at the upscale Pacchia restaurant. Located in Dayton’s Oregon District, this premier eatery also houses a quaint little jazz room. While the place couldn’t handle more than 25 or 30 people, the assembled crowd made up for the numbers by their sheer enthusiasm and it was strictly standing room only at several points in the evening. Wasting no time getting warmed up, Jackson and the boys got underway with several numbers from the new album. It was a decidedly electric mix, with Woodson on six-string fretless, Howes on electric violin, and Jackson utilizing two keyboards, one which included a realistic acoustic piano sound and another (Roland VK-7) which proved to be a muscular Hammond B3 organ emulator. Highlights included a gospelish D.D. original entitled “Peace Song” and a tribute to Pat Metheny simply called “Pat.” It was on the latter that Jackson’s two-fisted attack made a strong impression, suggesting the kind of kinetic vigor that marked the work of the late Don Pullen. For “Water Dance,” variety was achieved by alternating between various solo and duo combinations which allowed each player to collectively contribute. The second set included more high-octane D.D. originals. In fact, although the pacing throughout was very amenable, there were no ballad tempos to speak of and the focus was on the incendiary. Another Jackson homage, “For Monk’s Sake,” brought forth the best in Howes’ animated approach. He almost attacks the violin, engaging in boisterous flurries of activity that find him bounding up and down with his long blonde hair flailing in the wind. If he had decided to pick up a guitar instead and hit the road with a rock band he surely would have been able to handle the histrionics of your typical stage show. D.D. got in his own transcendent moments with a solo medley of “I Mean You” and “Come Sunday.” The set closing “Anthem” brought forth more fireworks, with Jackson’s beefy organ sound coming off with such authenticity that you’d almost swear there was a full-sized B3 and Leslie in the house.
The final three numbers of the evening featured more solo work from all hands, including bassist Andy Woodson and drummer James Gaiters. A heavy rock groove marked “Carnival” and both “Simple Song” and “Church” included extended wails from Jackson and Howes. When the dust had settled, you couldn’t help but be awestruck by the synergy that Jackson has managed to obtain both through his fervent writing and the great ensemble he has put together. With further exposure and recording opportunities, the D.D. Jackson Group promises to become one of the hottest electric bands on the scene.