Javon Jackson is part of a heritage that’s second to none. An alumnus of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers during their 1980s home stretch, the tenor saxophonist is influenced by Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson, and Wayne Shorter. These days, he’s an educator and the owner of the Solid Jackson label, through which his latest offering is Déjà Vu, a sequel to his 2018 album For You. Like its predecessor, it features pianist Jeremy Manasia, bassist David Williams, and drummer McClenty Hunter.
A no-nonsense postbop set, Déjà Vu contains enough exciting moments to keep one engaged. Part of the appeal is in the selections; Jackson sticks to standards here, including two Cedar Waltons (“Martha’s Prize,” “In the Kitchen”), a Thelonious Monk (“Raise Four”), a Wayne Shorter (“Venus di Mildew”), and a Jimmy Heath (“Rio Dawn”). The only original is “T.J.,” a tip of the hat to his octogenarian father, Theodore Jackson, who helped him get started on the horn as a teenager. We should be grateful he did: Jackson is a solid player and a worthy ambassador for this style.
Lou Donaldson once lauded Jackson’s tone as “a little sweet and a little hot,” and his very light touch with vibrato may dictate whether you return to him. “You notice he had a sound,” the 90-year-old pianist and educator Barry Harris told Discogs this year about multi-reedist Yusef Lateef. “A lot of cats nowadays just play straight … they don’t use vibrato. Vibrato is your identification. It’s almost like your fingerprint. We know who you are.” Will Déjà Vu linger in your memory? Harris’ assertion may have found its ultimate litmus test.