Jason Jackson emerges as a jazz master whose gifts as a composer and arranger match his virtuosity as a trombonist. His inspired combination of horns, strings, and rhythm is quite unlike anything else being recorded these days. The new disc is on Planet Arts/Jack & Hill Music labels.
Inspiration finds Jackson at the helm of full orchestras made up of rhythm, horn, and string sections. Jackson was able to call on the services of friends and colleagues such as trumpeters Roy Hargrove and Terell Stafford, trombonist Slide Hampton, clarinetist Evan Christopher, saxophonists Pete Christlieb, Dick Oatts, Rich Perry,and Steve Wilson, pianists Roger Jones II and Michael Melvoin, bassist Rufus Reid, drummers John Guerin and Dennis Mackrel, and percussionist Roger Squitero. Of the ten selections on the CD, six of the arrangements were written by Jackson, one by his friend and former teacher Slide Hampton, one by Christopher, and two by the prolific motion picture composer Eddie Karam.
The remarkably varied program on Inspiration opens with the lively samba- and montuno-driven original “Brazilian Bop,” which came out of Jackson’s travels to Brazil with Ray Charles and the two years he spent in Dominican salsa singer Raulin Rosendo’s band. The standards “Spring Is Here” and “Tenderly” showcase Jackson as a supremely lyrical interpreter of ballads in the tradition of such trombone predecessors as Tommy Dorsey and Urbie Green, both of whom he credits as influences, although he cites J. J. Johnson, his onetime instructor at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, as his all-time favorite.
Other standouts are the swinging Jackson composition “Wake Up Election 2000” for full orchestra, with solos by Wilson (on alto), Stafford, and the leader; Vernon Duke’s “April in Paris,” for which Jackson’s arrangement combines polyrhythmic swing with an Afro-Cuban feel; and “The Spot,” the trombonist’s swinging salute to jam sessions. “It’s where musicians have sort of a social gathering; otherwise we’re working all the time,” he says. “It’s where we go to play and hone our skills and be inspired by each other’s ideas.”
With the release of Inspiration, Jason Jackson emerges as a jazz master whose gifts as a composer and arranger match his virtuosity as a trombonist. His inspired combination of horns, strings, and rhythm is quite unlike anything else being recorded these days.
Jason Jackson has been one of the busiest and most respected trombone players in New York City since settling there 21 years ago. In addition to the two years he spent touring the world with Ray Charles not long after his arrival, he has been the lead trombonist in the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band for the past decade and also currently plays that part in orchestras led by Roy Hargrove and Charles Tolliver. And on Mondays, his off-nights from playing in the pit bands of such Tony Award-winning Broadway productions as The Color Purple, Wonderful Town, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and Motown the Musical, he has been a member for the past 10 years of the Grammy Award-winning Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at the Village Vanguard. He also teaches part-time at City College of New York, performs about once per month in a group he co-leads with his wife, vocalist Rosena Hill Jackson, and even finds time to occasionally sit in at jam sessions. Inspiration was recorded at the legendary Capitol Studio A in Hollywood and at two studios in New York—but mostly at his and his wife’s Jack&Hill Recording Studio in their South Orange, New Jersey, home, with Jackson himself serving as recording engineer—the CD features Jackson at the helm of full orchestras made up of rhythm, horn, and string sections.