San Francisco's Frank Jackson has an impressive musical resume. At age 78, he has 60 years of musical experience as a singer/pianist. He dates back to Bay Area jazz clubs like Jimbo's Bop City and Slim Gaillard's Voute City and has been associated with some of the jazz masters of the Twentieth Century (e.g. Parker, Webster, Ellington). Jackson has also been classmates with Cal Tjader and Vince Guaraldi. Over the years, he became an effective pianist who was frequently sought out as an accompanist for jazzmen in the area. Last year, at the insistence of the late pianist, James Williams, Jackson traveled to New York to record this session in November 2003, for which Williams selected the musicians.
The seventy-minute, thirteen-track album offers an accurate snapshot of Frank Jackson's abilities as a jazz singer. It is inevitable that he will be compared with Johnny Hartman insofar as choice of material, delivery and jazz sensibilities, although he does not possess Hartman's resonous baritone. The tunes are all from the Great American Songbook, albeit a few obsure entries, plus Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite." Listen to the phrasing on Vernon Duke's "Autumn in New York," including a rarely heard verse, and Rodgers & Hart's "You Are Too Beautiful," and appreciate how the lyrics are presented in an unhurried fashion. "If I Should Lose You" is taken up-tempo and Jackson scats during the break.
On "Yardbird Suite," the uncredited lyrics are neither the words of Eddie Jefferson nor Bob Dorough and do not celebrate the genius of Bird. Nevertheless, Jackson swings the tune and offers a lengthy scat which ends with him trading fours with Kenny Washington. Four of the songs are rather unheard compositions, including "Baby I'm Yours" from the pens of Austin singer/songwriter Guy Clark and C&W singer Steve Wariner. The most attractive of these is Una Mae Carlisle's "I See A Million People (But All I Can See Is You)," which recalls the material performed by the Nat King Cole Trio during the 1940s.
This must have been one of the last sessions for pianist James Williams, who passed away earlier this year. He was the inspiration and arranger for this session and provides superior support and solos during these selections. Billy Pierce makes an appearance on tenor and soprano sax on raises the level on each of the four tracks that he appears on. Notably his soprano work on "You Go To My Head" and "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square" is best. Ron Carter is featured on "Summertime" and the dependable Kenny Washington handles the drums with his usual taste and skill.
You Go To My Head; Autumn in New York; What Is This Thing Called Love; Summertime; You Are Too Beautiful; If I Should Lose You; A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square; Yardbird Suite; Baby I'm Yours; Oh You Crazy Moon; I See a Million People But All I Can See is You; Foolishly Yours; It's Monday Everyday.
Frank Jackson- vocals; James Williams- piano, organ; Ron Carter- bass; Kenny Washington- drums; Billy Pierce- soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone.
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