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Javon Jackson: Pleasant Valley

Jim Santella By

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A solid, dependable and mild-mannered saxophonist, Javon Jackson studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston for several years before joining Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The saxophonist’s niche in today’s jazz world is filled with solid mainstream vibrations and a caressing respect for the instrument. Jackson’s approach is a bit laid-back, his tone is true, and his articulation serves him well. At 33, the saxophonist is in a position to either branch out or to focus more on that aspect of his career which he finds most satisfying.

On Pleasant Valley, the focus is on fitting together some of Jackson’s best-loved symbols of the art. Compositions on the album were written for Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Garrett, Donald Brown, and Jim Hall. "Sun Swept Sunday" is from Duke Ellington’s film score to Anatomy Of A Murder. Two others are pop tunes, while "Hippodelphia" comes from the pen of Joe Zawinul. That Jackson and Garrett are close friends who worked with Blakey together plays into the unique voicing the leader employs on "Brother G." Veering away from the lower tenor sax register that Jackson stays with elsewhere, this tribute aims higher, hanging instead in the middle and upper register neighborhood. Thus, he attains a sound closer to Garrett’s alto saxophone tone. Underlying this tonal ploy is a sense of majesty that Jackson has written into the melody and harmony.

With Larry Goldings and Dave Stryker blending timbres, the quartet’s cool, relaxed attitude recalls that of the classic organ combo. Jackson’s latest exemplifies what we sometimes think of as "the Blue Note sound" and sits comfortably "in the pocket."


Title: Pleasant Valley | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Blue Note


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