Javon_jackson-pleasant_valley_span3
November 1999

Javon Jackson
Pleasant Valley
Blue Note Records

If tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson has played his part in the neo-mainstream jazz wave, as an alumnus of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, he's also had ideas of his own to the left and right. Both directions are accounted for on Pleasant Valley, an unassuming quartet session with contemporary-minded organist Larry Goldings, guitarist-deserving-great-recognition Dave Stryker and drummer Billy Drummond. Vamps over loose 'n' funky grooves project echoes of the soul-jazz instincts of the '60s and '70s, as recently heard anew in acid jazz circles (real-time and sample-time), and the worn-in organ-oriented funk ethic works well on Joe Zawinul's "Hippodelphia," instrumental visitations on Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry About a Thing," and Al Green's "Love and Happiness," as well as such tunes as Goldings' twisted swinger "Jim Jam," written for Jim Hall. Jackson's direct-hit sax timbre is heard in a kind of dry, chafing, reverb-less presence, and his sense of intonation is less-than-fussy. Phrases impress by virtue of their lack of trying to impress, accented by a laid-back melodic instinct and will to hang out in the low end of the horn. Pleasant Valley, suitably titled, resounds with the sound of an artist searching for an identity and having a nice time along the way.

Originally published in November 1999
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