Javon Jackson: For You (Solid Jackson)

Review of the saxophonist's 20th album as a leader

Cover of Javon Jackson album For You
Cover of Javon Jackson album For You

The 20th album from tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson presents a series of dedicatory designs suffused with a sense of appreciation. It’s a collection that’s both sincere in tone and forthright in its displays, playing up the best qualities behind this shining veteran’s music.

With tradition always in mind but keeping the settings varied, Jackson salutes mentors, inspirations, and family, among others. His love of Sonny Rollins is clear as day on “I’m Old Fashioned,” he mines Wayne Shorter’s shuffling “Backstage Sally” for all its worth, and he puts the album to rest with some gusty statements on the McCoy Tyner-inspired “88 Strong.” His ray-of-sunshine demeanor also proves to be a key component of the production, lighting up Cedar Walton’s “Simple Pleasure” and bassist David Williams’ tropically infused “Native Son.” When not dealing with searing heat or pure light, Jackson can be found wearing his heart on his horn. He lends true grace to “Lelia,” a ballad dedicated to a cousin who was taken too soon by cancer.

Williams, pianist Jeremy Manasia, and drummer McClenty Hunter join Jackson for this journey, constituting a first-time recording band yet coming off like a well-oiled machine. All four men share a love for no-nonsense engagement with the music, and it shows throughout. If there’s one complaint to be voiced, it’s that the group never really gets to stretch out. All but one of these tracks clock in under six minutes. Brevity certainly has its beauty, but so too does blowing room.

Originally Published