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December 2006

D.D. Jackson
Serenity Song
Justin Time Records

D.D. Jackson has his advocates in the jazz journalism community. I find his piano playing exhausting and annoying. He is in love with grandiloquence. His playing is filled with empty gestures: leaps across the keyboard from crashing bass to clanging treble; impulsive fidgeting runs; block chords like body blows; melodramatic flourishes. A pianistic approach so overbearing requires technical facility, but Jackson’s elaborate decorations sound extraneous (the title track), and his crises of nervous energy (“Etude,” “Three Shades Of Mingus”) sound self-conscious.

He does write pleasant, well-crafted (if thematically conventional) tunes, and employs interesting musicians in unusual instrumental configurations to play them. The core trio here has Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Dafnis Prieto on drums, to which Jackson adds varying combinations of Sam Newsome on soprano saxophone, Christian Howes on electric and acoustic violins and bass violin, and Dana Leong on trombone and cello.

Leong’s pizzicato and arco cello creates pensive poignance around “Love Theme From Québecité.” The excitement on “Sam He Is” comes when Newsome’s sweetly stinging lines begin to rush and overflow. Howes’ bowed bass violin whispers darkly beneath the light melody of “Lushly.”

Originally published in December 2006
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