Javon Jackson was born in Carthage, Missouri and raised in Denver, Colorado. Music captivated the young Javon who was exposed to some of the greatest musicians in jazz through his parents' record collection. Gene Ammons and Ahmad Jamal were early favorites. As he matured, Javon soon became captivated by the work of Sonny Stitt. Stitt, known for his prowess on both the alto and tenor saxophone, was considered one of Charlie Parker's most avid disciples early in his career but later developed a distinctive voice of his own. Like so many other horn players today, Stitt's music inspired Javon to pick up his first saxophone, an alto, at a young age.
More musical discoveries followed: Rollins, Henderson, Coltrane. The work of these legends eventually led Javon to favor the tenor. Honing his craft, Jackson began working professionally in local jazz clubs at age 16, playing with former Max Roach Quintet pianist Billy Wallace. In high school he also performed in the McDonald's All-American Band. During this time, Javon met and was befriended by Branford Marsalis. It was Marsalis who encouraged Javon to attend Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music.
Two of Javon's instructors at Berklee were saxophonist Billy Pierce and pianist Donald Brown, two former members of Art Blakey's legendary Jazz Messengers. One of the seminal groups of the hard bop movement of the 50's and 60's, the Messengers provided a training ground for the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, and Javon's early mentor, Branford Marsalis.
Donald Brown helped secure Javon an audience with the legendary Blakey one night at Mikell's, a New York City club. After sitting in one night, Javon's skill on the tenor earned him an invitation to join the group. Those years under the tutelage of Blakey involved intensive study of both interplay and improvisation. Performing alongside Terence Blanchard, Kenny Garrett, Wallace Roney and Benny Green, Javon appeared on several recordings with Blakey, including Not Yet (Soul Note), One For All (A&M) and Chippin' In (Timeless).
Javon remained with the Messengers for over three years until Blakey's death in 1990. Looking back on that time, Javon said, "I wouldn't be where I am today without him. Blakey taught me to be a man; he taught me how to be a leader."
Javon earned his degree from Berklee while continuing to tour with Hubbard, Elvin Jones, Charlie Haden and Cedar Walton. His debut as a leader came quickly, in 1991, when he released Burnin' and Me and Mr. Jones on the Criss Cross Label.