Take Five With Ron Jackson

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Meet Ron Jackson:

Ron Jackson is a New York based guitarist, composer, arranger, producer, recording artist, and instructor.

Ron's style of guitar playing and compositions is a blend of jazz, and other American styles such as soul, rhythm and blues, pop that is influenced by his roots in the Philippines. Ron has five CDs as a leader and has recorded and performed with Taj Majal, Mingus Guitar Orchestra, Benny Golson, Randy Weston, Ron Carter, Oliver Lake, Jaki Byard, Jimmy Cobb, Rufus Reid, Larry Coryell, Jeff "Tain" Watts, Bernard Purdie, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Dewey Redman, Gary Bartz, John Hicks, Olantunji, The Boys Choir of Harlem, to name a few.

Ron is a faculty member at the of The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Wachovia Jazz For Teens Program, Music Outreach, The Brooklyn Conservatory and The New York Pops Create A Symphony Program. He has taught and lectured at the Prins Claus Conservatoire, "New York Comes to Groningen" program in The Netherlands, Duke University, The National Summer Guitar Workshop Jazz Summit, The New School, New York University, at Jazzmobile, as well as in clinics in France, Escuela Creativa Musica, Madrid Spain, The United Kingdom, Australia and Portugal. Ron endorses Seymour Duncan pickups, Thomastik-Infeld Strings, Heritage Guitars and Aria Guitars


Guitar, electric bass.

Teachers and/or influences? I've studied with Pat Martino, Bucky Pizzarelli, Ted Dunbar, Rodney Jones, James "Blood" Ulmer, and Melvin Sparks. My main influences are Charlie Christian, Joe Pass, Django Reinhardt, George Benson, Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, Grant Greene, Joe Pass, Mike Stern, and Kenny Burrell, among many others. I love the new generation of jazz guitarists coming up as well.

Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans and so many others in other styles of music also influence me as well.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I was about nine years old. Strangely enough, I heard electric guitar on Elvis Presley recordings. I thought the guitar sounded cool. Ever since then I wanted to be a musician. I was self taught and from learned from best friends growing up.

I got into rock music, playing with a local band in the Boston area. At the same time I started composing music and getting into jazz introduced by my friends in high school. I saw a lot of rock concerts and jazz concerts like Miles Davis and Pat Metheny. I always thought that music would be a tough field to be in, but I loved it so much that I stuck with it and persevered. I didn't want to do anything else. A lot people I knew from Berklee never pursued music after. You need to be really dedicated, versatile and resourceful.

Your sound and approach to music: I think I'm still developing my sound. It's a lifelong process and I am always trying to find ways of sounding better. When I first came to New York I used to be influenced by my peers about the way I should sound. I was always worried, (insecure) about what other musicians thought. I realized after a while, that I just need to be myself and that you can never really sound like anyone else unless you really try to, as well as being secure about yourself and believing in yourself. It's hard sometimes.

My main jazz axe is a Gibson L-5 Studio set up with Thomastik George Benson Model Strings, .14 on 1st string along with the new Fender Twin Pro amp (favorite amp ever). I think that sound and rhythm are everything. I believe in having big, warm, beautiful tone and that you can hear every note clearly and that you always must "swing" in any style of music. Also having great time, a great feel and good intonation. My approach is hard bop based, but I am recently really into reharmonizing. I believe that you really need to know your roots in any style of music so you have the basis, or the heart of the music ingrained in your soul.

Your teaching approach: Basics, history, rhythm, good sound and technique. I believe that to know any style of music, you must listen and experience it. You've got practice a lot and dedicate yourself to your instrument. I love practicing and I believe that anyone who wants to master an instrument must have an affinity with it. I always tell my students that you cannot fake playing an instrument unless you are really a genius. Even if you have a lot of talent, someone else with less talent who works harder and is determined can surpass your talent. I believe that with you need to play as much as possible, in any situation and get experience. To me, jazz requires just as much the playing aspect as well as the practice aspect. Also you need to go see great musicians perform live. I think that should know how to sight-read, especially guitarists, because that's our forte. Most importantly to be yourself and have fun.

Your dream band:

Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, George Benson, Dennis Chambers, Lewis Nash, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, Kenny Garrett and so many others.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: I have many road horror stories. Here's a couple. I was playing in Morocco with T.K. Blue years ago. After our tour was over we were on our way to the airport to go home, which was Paris at the time. When I got to the airport I realized that I had left my amp at the hotel.

I was once playing on gig and the drummer was so drunk that he couldn't play and he was falling asleep in the concert.

My best experience was being in an AMEX Commercial few years ago, playing with Bernard Purdie on drums and the late great Earl May on bass. We were treated so well, (like movie stars) that I wanted to be an actor ever since.

Favorite venue:

It's hard to say. From what I remember I like Birdland and Sweet Rhythm for sound. NJPAC Victoria Theater has a great sound crew and treat artists like human beings. I have played everywhere overseas. Recently I played in the Istanbul Jazz Festival, the sound and scenery was wonderful.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? I really don't have any favorite recordings I'm inspired and influenced by so many, like Wes Montgomery's Incredible Jazz Guitar. I love that record so much because it a timeless representation of jazz guitar at it's highest level.

The first Jazz album I bought was: George Benson, Breezin.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? That I am keeping the jazz guitar tradition alive. There are less and less guitarists really dedicated to this art form. Also there are very few people of color coming up playing jazz guitar.

Did you know...

I was a rock guitarist growing up, that I consider myself a composer first and that I double on electric bass. Also, I am half Filipino.

CDs you are listening to now: I've been listening recently to a lot of pop, rock and R&B music:
Lionel Richie, Coming Home (Def Jam);

Bill Withers, Greatest Hits (Columbia);

The Isley Brothers, Greatest Hits Vol.1 (Epic).

Desert Island picks:

John Coltrane, Blue Train (Blue Note);

Miles Davis, Someday My Prince Will Come (Columbia);

Wes Montgomery, Incredible Jazz Guitar (Riverside);

Bill Withers, Greatest Hits (Columbia);

The Isley Brothers, Greatest Hits Vol.1 (Epic).

How would you describe the state of jazz today? I think the Internet has changed the whole playing field with jazz and music in general. I think it's a volatile time as well as a great time of opportunity for the independent jazz artist. Cyberspace can reach the whole planet. I think that jazz has unfortunately become less popular, especially in the USA. There are less and less venues to play in, and less of an audience as well.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? Education like teen programs like Wachovia Jazz For Teens, that I am involved with, exposure through radio and concerts, and advertising particularly on Internet searches.

What is in the near future? Completing the video portion of my new CD, Flubby Dubby, booking and touring my group, I will be in Spain from May 18-31, 2009 playing in Madrid and Malaga.

Get my new CD, Flubby Dubby out on the radio and press. I currently have a lot original tunes that I am trying to record on various albums in different styles and settings, solo guitar, duo, trio etc.

To really focus on myself as an artist and release new music all the time.

By Day:

My day job is practicing, composing, promoting and running the Ron Jackson empire.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: Rock musician or a plumber.

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