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D.D. Jackson: Unreleased Live Performances

Mark Sabbatini By

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D.D. Jackson
Unreleased live performances
ddjackson.com

D.D. Jackson is truly one of jazz's good guys, which just makes it harder saying anything negative about this collection of unreleased live songs available as free downloads at his web site.



But while he gets high marks for performance, the imperfections—due mostly to sound quality often resembling a mediocre audience bootleg tape—can't be ignored.



Jackson is an elite modern pianist whose range extends from intensely throughtful classical interpretations to blistering hammer-like romps through free avant-garde fusion. All of it is on display in these six unprotected MP3 songs, which total about an hour in length.



The emphasis is contemporary, beginning with a trio performance of "Cubano-Funk" from a 2001 release party. Jackson's piano is hollow-sounding and much too far in the background, but his savagely intelligent beating of keys into submission is worth a few listens to figure out what he's doing. The rough mix means drummer Mark McLean dominates the track, but his refusal to do anything predictable beyond supporting Jackson with constantly shifting beats earns him a co-leader role on merit as well. Bassist Ugonna Okegwo gets a solo, but it's nearly impossible to hear and causual listeners are likely to drop out before McLean rescues things with a tight bit of modern pounding.



The low volume and poor mix makes appreciating some lower-key efforts such as "Summer" difficult, but the highlight may be his solo "10 Inspirations On A SImple Theme." Initially intended as an interpretation of ecclectic 19th century classical composer Erik Satie, the 15-minute piece progresses rapidly through a variety of styles inspired by the "new music" theme of the Minneapolis arts center that recruited him as part of a 2001 series of performances. His playing, ranging from subtle to overpowering—and probably from Mozart to Medeski—is a perfect taster for his 1999 solo album ...So Far , a similar take on jazz and classical pieces. Also, it is one track where the sound quality is good enough for general listening.



Things wrap up with "Church," opening with a familiar-sounding solo riff that feels like a parody of smooth jazz as soon as his quartet joins in a minute later. Jackson switches to organ and the playing goes into rock/R&B/free jazz mode, with everyone more or less trying to outscream the others for four overwhelming—but somehow glorious—minutes. There's no guitarist, so I can only assume electric violinist Christian Howes provides the Hendrix-like solo that leads into the closing parody. It isn't a superb artistic accomplishment, but it's a whale of a listen.



If this collection was a school paper, Jackson would get an A-minus for content and a D for penmanship. A terrible shame, if only because it robs Jackson of his due, but still a great acquisition for anyone whose enjoyment of music comes as much from analysis as listening.




Tracks: 1) Cubano-Funk; 2) Summer; 3) 10 Inspirations on a Simple Theme; 4) I Mean You; 5) Carnavale; 6) Church.

Personnel: D.D. Jackson, piano, organ; Ugonna Okegwo, acoustic bass (1, 2); Mark McLean, drums (1, 2); Christian Howes, electric violin (2, 5, 6); Andy Woodson, fretless bass (5, 6); James Gaiters, drums (5, 6).


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