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Javon Jackson: Once Upon a Melody

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Relaxed confidence oozes out of Javon Jackson as he launches into his solo on the opening track, “One by One,” showcasing the funkier compositional side of Wayne Shorter. The same self-assured swagger is evident in the ensuing mid-tempo swinger, “Will You Still Be Mine,” after Jackson’s ultra-smooth melody statement.

And Jackson does deliver, building to a Rollins-like wail playing on the Shorter line and adoring the Matt Dennis bridge in his “Be Mine” solo. The rhythm section gives their leader additional reasons for confidence. Eric Reed unleashes prodigious chops on piano, astonishingly Tyner-esque with both hands on “Mr. Taylor,” a Jackson original with all the staying power of Trane’s “Blues for Bessie.” Billy Drummond works his kit with Elvin-like intensity here behind the soloists. His finesse on cymbals catches the ear more readily on “Mr. Jones” and “Like a Star,” and he’s the secret ingredient in the success of “The In Crowd,” perhaps a better cover than Ramsey Lewis deserves.

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