Pianist D.D. Jackson has covered a lot of ground in his seven records as a leader. During this process of evolution, he moved from the powerfully warm sound of his first disc, Peace-Song (a true masterpiece), through signature efforts in solo, duo, trio, and sextet settings. Jackson's piano playing draws heavily upon blues, soul, and gospel roots while exercising a strong sense of modern adventurism. A student of the late Don Pullen, Jackson retains elements of Pullen's characteristic style: for example, dense clusters punctuating an unfailing emphasis on melody. But his sense of rhythm flies far beyond, both in his melodies (which often camouflage tricky swirling patterns) and in his sense of counterpoint (which reveals an unusual degree of dexterity and balance between top and bottom ends of the spectrum).
With all that said, Sigame takes Jackson into uncharted territory. While much of the record features the same gospel-tinged playing that caught listeners' interest early on, the majority of the pieces here have an unmistakable Latin tinge. As the title says in Spanish (with double entendre), "Follow Me." Bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Dafnis Prieto have no trouble keeping up with Jackson and providing the energy to spur him onward, or hanging back to render a relaxed mood in ballads. At times these pieces swing; at others, they dig the funk groove; and quite frequently they simply dwell at the confluence of Latin rhythms with their North American counterparts. The young Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto has the difficult task of staying fluid at Jackson's side, and his playing generates much of the character of Sigame. A couple of string players regularly join the group. Violinist Christian Howes offers a warm, legato sound. Guitarist Freddie Bryant handles some of the more up-tempo moments with a generous amount of solo time. (Much of the time Bryant hangs onto the root, and he gets lazy with simple modulations when harmonies change. But he too has his moments of bliss and energy.)
Sigame documents Jackson's return from major-label tenure (two records with RCA Victor) back to the Canadian minor Justin Time, where he originally broke through. In a sense, it's a celebration of freedom as the pianist throws off the shackles of corporate meddling for a sweet homecoming. With all its diversity and range, this disc is required listening for Jackson fansand highly recommended for neophytes as well. As William Burroughs once hinted, "Life in all its rich variety: take a little, give a little." That's the idea here.
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