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Javon Jackson: Pleasant Valley

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Having been tutored in Art Blakey's school of hard bop, it comes as no surprise that Javon Jackson's first albums as a leader were steeped in that idiom. Pleasant Valley, his fifth effort for Blue Note, departs slightly from the hard bop genre and heads into "grooveland." Working with guitarist Dave Stryker, organist Larry Goldings and drummer Billy Drummond, Pleasant Valley recalls the soul-jazz of many a classic organ combo. Unexpectedly, the CD opens with a rather low-key rendition of Ellington's serene ballad Sun Swept Sunday, but the pace quickly picks up with Jackson's original title tune. Complete with Goldings' swirling organ sounds, Stryker's wah-wah guitar and Drummond's muscular rhythms, it's a curious blend of bop and psychedelia. Sounding less like Joe Henderson and more like Gene Ammons, Jackson interprets a couple of pop tunes including Stevie Wonder's Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing and Al Green's classic Love And Happiness. While these covers may garner Jackson some "smooth jazz" airplay, they do little to test his considerable talents. ***

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