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October 2005

Javon Jackson
Have You Heard
Palmetto Records

The soul-jazz record has a long history, and on his second Palmetto disc, tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson provides a randomly ordered survey of the style. As was true of his 2003 effort, Easy Does It, Jackson is joined by organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and guitarist Mark Whitfield, both of whom give the proceedings a funky flair. However, hard as all three work, there is little that can save some of the corn on this disc. The canned vocals and Pro Tools 101 beat on "Dance Floor" offset three fine solos. On other tracks, maudlin songs and arrangements are just barely salvaged by the trio's energy and innovation.

The album is not without its pleasures. Vocalist Lisa Fischer turns up the heat for a smoldering rendition of "Breakin' Up Somebody's Home." The frontline stretches out nicely on "Dr. Smith," and the Memphis-soul tinges add a new dimension to the Gershwin classic "Summertime." Jackson's own sound has grown deeper, and at times he has a thoroughly commanding tone. Jackson, Smith and Whitfield combine to make a formidable nucleus of a funky jazz group, but some elements of that style are best left alone.

Originally published in October 2005
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