JazzTimes (p.88) - "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."
Personnel: Javon Jackson (tenor saxophone); Eric Reed (piano); Corcoran Holt (bass instrument); Billy Drummond (drums).
Recording information: Maggie's Farm, Buck's County, PA (02/04/2008).
Photographer: Arthur Elgort.
Javon Jackson's tenor sax work is admittedly influenced by Sonny Rollins, and kudos to him for selecting a perfect role model. But for Once Upon a Melody, he has chosen material that allows him to expound beyond the round sound of Rollins, fully expressing his own developing and literate voice. You hear familiar compositions from the repertoire of past artists he has been a sideman with, including Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Freddie Hubbard, and McCoy Tyner, as well as some personal favorites and originals in tribute to other legends of jazz. What Jackson brings to the table more than a decade after his initial thrust into the modern jazz arena is a more fluid, mellow, and sophisticated sound that is aging well, while still quite current and tuneful. With the criminally underrated pianist Eric Reed, the fine drummer Billy Drummond, and new bassist on the scene Corcoran Holt, this unified quartet shows few flaws in a multifaceted mainstream jazz stance that proudly holds sway with the Blue Note and Riverside hard bop to post-bop bands of the '50s and '60s. Among the gems on this set are a great take of Wayne Shorter's swing/shuffle "One by One" with a more legato lead line than the original; a sleek, gliding take of the lesser-known Rollins composition "Paradox"; and a killer, hip version of Tyner's modal "Inner Glimpse," with Reed stepping out and getting down, even briefly quoting "Mr. P.C." in his solo. Jackson's originals "Mr. Jones" and "Mr. Taylor" (for drummers Elvin Jones and Art Taylor) are John Coltrane-like modal and easy swinging blues, respectively, the former introduced by a marvelous free bass solo from Holt and the latter a basic, unforced, and enjoyable mainstream jazz song. Jackson's take of the soul-jazz classic "The 'In' Crowd" is nicely updated in the beat, with the modal piano of Reed quite different than that of Ramsey Lewis. Also reorganized in a near hip-hop beat, "Will You Still Be Mine" could easily be mistaken for Ahmad Jamal back in the day. A fine effort well worth everyone's while, this CD from Jackson should be a preference of radio programmers, fans, newbies to jazz, and critics. ~ Michael G. Nastos