Jan 15, 2013
“We started the Messengers because somebody had to mind the store for jazz. No America–no jazz. It is the only culture that America has brought forth.” – Art Blakey
The 2013 U.S. Bank Portland Jazz Festival, presented by Alaska Airlines, will start in less than a month, running Friday, February 15 through Sunday, February 24 at venues throughout Portland, OR. The 10th anniversary celebration will include a heady mix of world and west coast premieres and what they term For Portland Only performances, with a series of concerts featuring an imposing array of internationally recognized and local musicians playing a wide-range of jazz styles. Click here for more information on their imposing lineup of stars, which will include Jack DeJohnette Special Quartet featuring Ravi Coltrane, Matt Garrison and George Colligan; the west coast premiere of ACS featuring Geri Allen, Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding; Afro Cuban All-Stars and Alfredo Rodríguez; Steve Kuhn Trio featuring special guest Devin Phillips; Kurt Rosenwinkel Quartet; Kenny Garrett Quartet; Patricia Barber Quartet; and Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts. That’s an embarrassment of riches.
One of the most interesting events will come on Friday, February 22 when saxophonist Javon Jackson brings The Jazz Message; Celebrating Art Blakey to the festival. Six former Jazz Messengers, including Jackson, Bobby Watson, elder statesmen Curtis Fuller, Eddie Henderson, George Cables, and Buster Williams pay tribute to the immortal drummer and bandleader. Master drummer Lewis Nash will take on the unenviable role of Art Blakey, and will undoubtedly help bring the house down.
I spoke with Jackson about his beginnings as a young musician with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and what the man and his music mean to him today. In addition to touring with Blakey, Jackson has toured and recorded with Elvin Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Betty Carter, Cedar Walton, Ron Carter, Donald Byrd, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Richard Davis, Bobby Hutcherson, Curtis Fuller and Stanley Turrentine. He has developed a formidable career as a leader, recording and touring throughout the world, now with more than 125 recordings to his credit. Two releases came out in 2012 – one under his own name called Lucky 13, which featured guest spots by the great Les McCann, and Javon Jackson and We Four Celebrating John Coltrane, an outstanding quartet recording with Jackson, Eric Reed (piano); Nat Reeves (bass); and the legendary Jimmy Cobb on drums.
Click here to listen to Podcast 330, including musical selections from the Blakey and Jackson canon such as:
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – “Along Came Betty” and the Title Track from Moanin’. One of the earlier Blue Note recordings by the version of the Messengers many considered the finest – Blakey on drums; Lee Morgan on trumpet; Benny Golson on sax; Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on drums. Timmons write “Along Came Betty” and Golson wrote “Moanin’”; it would be the last American album Golson would make as a Messenger.
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – “Hammerhead” from Free-For-All. Many choose this album as Blakey’s finest hour with his finest band - Freddie Hubbard on trumpet (his last session with the Messengers), Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cedar Walton on piano, and Reggie Workman on bass. Check out Blakey cheering on Hubbard to new heights on his solo.
Javon Jackson – “Buzz-At” from Me & Mr. Jones. Jackson has made it a habit of playing with legendary drummers. This 1991 collaboration with Elvin Jones was a multi-generational event - Jackson, 26 at the time of the recording, joined forces with 40-year-old James Williams (piano), 19-year-old Christian McBride (bass) and the 64-year-old Jones.
Javon Jackson and We Four – “My Shining Hour” from Celebrating John Coltrane. Jackson spent much of last year on the road with Les McCann for the Lucky 13 CD, and with a series of different players honoring John Coltrane. The core was always Javon on sax; and Jimmy Cobb on drums. The other two seats rotated, and for this recording its Eric Reed (piano) and Nat Reeves (bass).
Javon Jackson – “Give It Up or Turnit Loose” from Now. Javon is not one to stick to tried and true jazz forms, incorporating funk, R&B and whatever music inspires him into his art. Here it’s a funky shout out to the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, with Javon (Tenor Saxophone); Lisa Fischer (Vocals); David Gilmore (Guitar); Dr. Lonnie Smith (Organ); Lenny Davis (Electric Bass); and Greg Hutchinson (Drums).