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In Memoriam: Eric Jackson

Mac Randall reflects on Jackson (Jan. 31, 1950 – Sept. 17, 2022), "the Dean of Boston Jazz Radio."

Eric Jackson (Jan. 31, 1950 – Sept. 17, 2022). Photo by Meredith Nierman

On the night of July 17, 1987, the 20th anniversary of John Coltrane’s passing, I listened (as I frequently did in those days) to Eric Jackson’s Eric in the Evening show on WGBH-FM radio in Boston. I was 15. This particular show was a tribute to Trane, and about midway through Eric played A Love Supreme in its entirety. I had never heard it before, and my life hasn’t been the same since. My artistic horizons expanded at least a thousandfold within 33 minutes. All my concepts about how music could be written and played—and, more important, what music could be, what it could mean to both its creators and its listeners—changed for good. 

Yes, John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison, and Elvin Jones did that for me. But so did Eric.

And Eric did that so many times in so many ways for so many people, not only with the music that he played but with the deep knowledge and friendly warmth that he brought to every program for more than five decades (including 40-plus years at ’GBH). Calling him “the Dean of Boston Jazz Radio,” as he was frequently labeled, seems both perfectly fitting and way too narrow. He was a major influence not just on my musical youth but on generations of players and fans, a tastemaker—and a taste-stretcher—par excellence.

In later years I had the honor of meeting Eric a few times, and even interviewing him a couple. In person, he was just as kind and down-to-earth as he was on the airwaves. I owe him more than I can possibly express. Thank you, Eric, and rest in “Peace”—as written by Horace Silver and played by Tommy Flanagan, forever.

Mac Randall

Mac Randall

Mac Randall served a the editor of JazzTimes from May 2018 through January 2023. Prior to that, he wrote regularly for the magazine. He has written about numerous genres of music for a wide variety of publications over the past 30 years, including Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The New York Observer, Mojo, and Guitar Aficionado, and he has worked on the editorial staffs of Musician, LAUNCH (now Yahoo! Music), Guitar One, Teaching Music, Music Alive!, and In Tune Monthly. He is the author of two books, Exit Music: The Radiohead Story and 101 Great Playlists. He lives in New York City.