While tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson was born in Carthage, Missouri, he grew up in Denver and was part of a young group of players who cultivated their collective chops at El Chapultepec. In 1986, Jackson, who left Denver in order to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, got an invitation to join Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. And that’s exactly what he did, remaining a Messenger until Blakey’s death in 1990. Early on, Jackson also worked with drummer Elvin Jones, the Harper Brothers, and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

Over the years, Jackson would also integrate masters such as drummer Jimmy Cobb and pianist Les McCann into his band, while turning out discs on several labels including Blue Note. The Denver-raised saxophonist also turned to teaching and became, in 2013, the director of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz Studies at the University of Hartford.

In that position, Jackson was involved in bringing speakers to the school and that led to his current project that will be released in mid-February on his Solid Jackson label. That project by the saxophonist and his working quartet (pianist Jeremy Manasia bassist David Williams and drummer McClenty Hunter) is called The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni.

The noted poet spoke at the university and while there she heard the 1995 album by pianist Hank Jones and bassist Charlie Haden titled Steal Away. The duo’s disc of spirituals caught Giovanni’s attention and gave Jackson an idea – why not record an album of Giovanni’s favorite spirituals. The result is The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni. You can catch a sample of that disc in the form of “Wade in the Water” on YouTube and other online spots.

Around the same time that Javon’s latest disc comes out, there is another item of interest to area jazz fans. This is a series scheduled at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. The series is connected to the idea of 12 Musicians Encountering the Sculpture of Harry Bertola. There are six concerts, each one featuring two players starting with two guitarists and finishing with two pianists (Kris Davis and Craig Taborn). In between, there are two trumpet players, Ambrose Akinmusire and Nate Wooley. Wooley, of course, is the reason I mention this art/music connection here.

Born in Oregon, Wooley moved to Colorado where he studied with Ron Miles, Art Lande, the late Fred Hess, and Jack Wright. Since moving on to the East Coast, Wooley has established a strong name in the more adventurous side of the music both in the company of others and as a solo voice.

This brings up a reminder that the enormously impressive pianist Jason Moran’s art exhibit Bathing the Room with Blues continues at Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art through January 30, 2022. This is an exhibit on two levels that you will definitely want to check out. Along with the exhibit, there has been a concert series to accompany Moran’s work. That series continues into January with three events. The first is a concert by Denver-born drummer Colin Stranahan at 2 and 4 p.m. on January 8. Stranahan has been a finalist in the Thelonious Monk (now Herbie Hancock) international instrumental competition and has made a name for himself on the national jazz scene.  The second is a 7 p.m. concert by Moran’s Bandwagon band with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits on January 14 in the museum’s Holiday Theater located at 2644 W. 32nd St. The third is a talk by Moran on January 15 at 6 p.m. also in the museum’s off-site location, the Holiday Theater.

Meanwhile, enjoy Christmas and the sounds of the Holiday; and as we move into the New Year, keep in mind the highlights scheduled to come in upcoming months. Highlights that include Ron Carter and Christian McBride, the Pat Bianchi Trio, and Wolfgang Muthspiel (with Brian Blade and Scott Colley).

Until then, stay safe.

Jazz Notes 12-23-2021
Norman Provizer

Become a Member

Join the growing family of people who believe that music is essential to our community. Your donation supports the work we do, the programs you count on, and the events you enjoy.

Download the App

Download KUVO's FREE app today! The KUVO Public Radio App allows you to take KUVO's music and news with you anywhere, anytime!