A true keeper of the flame, tenor saxophonist and former Jazz Messenger, Javon Jackson, continues to champion the tradition with his spirited interpretations of some well-known standards on Deja Vu. The album stands as a sequel of sorts to his acclaimed For You. Fronting the same band of pianist Jeremy Manasia, drummer McClenty Hunter and venerable bassist David Williams, Jackson delivers in the same self-assured manner that has marked his playing with icons like Art Blakey, Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton, Charlie Haden, and Elvin Jones. While putting a highly personal take on such timeless and essential vehicles as “Autumn in New York,” “Limehouse Blues” and “My Shining Hour,” Jackson and his accomplished crew also deliver fresh takes on tunes by Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, Thelonious Monk, and the late Jimmy Heath, who passed away just before the official release of Deja Vu. The lone Jackson original on the program, “T.J.”, a dedication to his father.
Jackson explained that not only was the music for Deja Vu recorded in a seamless flow in a short span of time, it involved no rehearsals at all. “I just wrote a bunch of these things down that I’d never played before and brought them to the session,” he recalled. “And us knowing each other so well, I figured we’d be able to get into something.”
A former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers who also put in time with such jazz giants, Javon Jackson keeps the fires burning for straight ahead jazz on this, his 21st release as a leader. “I was raised in that experience of swinging, and that’s what I really have an appreciation for,” said the says the 55- year-old saxophonist-composer-educator. And as Director of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at The Hartt School, part of the University of Hartford, since 2013, Jackson is also mindful of his position and the importance of educating the next generation of players. As he told Downbeat magazine, “Today’s students won’t get to know Art Blakey. They won’t get to know Freddie Hubbard. They won’t get to know Elvin Jones or Cedar Walton or Charlie Haden or Betty Carter. But they can know them through me.”
Born on June 16, 1965, in Carthage, Missouri, Jackson was raised in Denver, Colorado, and chose saxophone at the age of 10. At age 16, he switched from alto to tenor and later enrolled at the University of Denver before spending part of 1985–86 at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He left Berklee in 1986 to join Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and remained a fixture in the group until Blakey’s passing in 1990. The following year, Jackson made his recording debut with Me and Mr. Jones, featuring James Williams, Christian McBride, and master drummer Elvin Jones. He joined Jones’ group in 1992, appearing on his albums Youngblood and Going Home. Jackson’s 1994 Blue Note debut, When the Time Is Right, was a straight-ahead affair produced by iconic jazz vocalist and bandleader Betty Carter. His subsequent four recordings for the Blue Note label through the ‘90s were produced by Craig Street and featured wildly eclectic programs ranging from Caetano Veloso, Frank Zappa, and Santana to Muddy Waters, Al Green, and Serge Gainsbourg. Jackson followed with four recordings for the Palmetto label that had him exploring a blend of funk, jazz, and soul with such stellar sidemen as organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, guitarists Mark Whitfield and David Gilmore, trombonist Fred Wesley, and drummer Lenny White.
In 2012, Jackson released a potent tribute to a towering influence, Celebrating John Coltrane, featuring the venerable drummer and former Coltrane collaborator Jimmy Cobb. He followed later in 2012 with Lucky 13, which featured the great soul-jazz keyboardist Les McCann and included a mellow instrumental rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” along with a version of McCann’s 1969 hit, “Compared to What.” That same year, Jackson was the recipient of the prestigious Benny Golson Award from Howard University in Washington, D.C. for recognition of excellence in jazz. Jackson’s debut on the Smoke Sessions label, 2014’s Expression, was a live quartet recording from the Smoke Jazz & Supper Club in Upper Manhattan. Jackson’s latest, 2020’s Deja Vu, is his fourth album for his own Solid Jackson Records.