Finding Serenity In Queens: The D.D. Jackson InterviewD.D. Jackson talks about his new CD Serenty Song, living in NewYork and the soundtrack to Grease.
By Jim Dupuis
JD: Ok. I’m going to mention some names and maybe you can say something about them or how they affected you. I was going to mention Don Pullen, but you answered that one already. How about Jane Bunnett? You played with her for a while.
DD: Ya, well she got me my first start. I think my first Canadian tour was with her and my first gig in Europe. Wait, maybe I played one little tour before that, but she kind of brought me to Europe on a larger scale for the first time. She was very important to me I've always tried to be eclectic from one project to the other, but in terms of my jazz output, there's always been sort of a consistency career-wise and she was always extremely encouraging. We always had that Don Pullen connection. In fact the first time that she heard me was when I was jamming--very late night--I almost wasn’t going to do it but I thought, “What the hell.” I think almost all the other players had stopped playing and I just went up and did a solo version of one of my favourite pieces of Don Pullen called “Gratitude” and she happened to be in the hallway. She got my number and that sort of lead to me working with her because she recorded with Don Pullen, a couple of albums of her own and so on--so there definitely was that connection.
JD: David Murray.
DD: Well David Murray was a huge influence on me. In fact I was just reflecting on the fact that I haven’t played with him in so long. People still associate me with him, yet maybe it’s been five or six years. There’s a point where he basically kicked me out of his band in the good sense of the word. He said, “You really are starting to emerge as a leader and it’s time for you to do your thing and I want you to kind of get out of that.” He’s had a reputation for nurturing young talent and when it comes time to let them go, he sort of lets them go. But ya, he had a huge influence on me in terms of trying to be a leader and trying to do various types of groups, in terms of booking, and certainly conceptually, because he came out of the Don Pullen, which emerged in a sense avant-garde expression, while trying to maintain a through line of melody and things that people could hold on to. Gospel influence in his particular case would be one of the things that you can hold on to in his playing.
JD: I’m getting a sense of the education that you got from these people, Don Pullen and David Murray. It is a continuing education in the jazz world/music world and it is wonderful that they hand down their knowledge, of not just the music, but the business end and everything else. It’s kind of neat.
DD: Absolutely. Not to overstate what I do as a writer, but I wrote an article over a year ago for the Village Voice Jazz Supplement Issue and it was on the new apprenticeship and it was talking about how, at the jazz educational level in institutions, people are really trying to push the ideas of using mentors, people who have really lived and breathed the music, to teach. I feel really fortunate in my studies both formally and informally, that I have always been somebody who benefited from that myself.
JD: I had the pleasure of hearing and seeing you perform at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in 2002 at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre and we really did enjoy the show.
DD: Well, thank you.
JD: One thing I did notice was that you have the ability of playing with great speed and great clarity. Have you ever had a problem where a rhythm section couldn’t keep up with you?
DD: Oh, (laughs) well you know, the answer is sort of. I’ve encountered a lot of different sorts of players, let’s put it that way. It’s not an issue of keeping up--maybe I’m trying to be too diplomatic about it--players have different sorts of approaches and I’ve always looked for a certain of type approach in the sidemen that I’ve worked with. In the piano trio format I like bass players, for example, who play on top of the beat as opposed to lagging behind, which is sort of a more laid back thing that I’ve heard with a lot of bass players, especially those from areas that are more relaxed inherently--you know, culturally. And people who also play simply--they don’t overplay and really lay the groove down and, drummers, for me, really need to be virtuosic and have access to a variety of styles and play on top of the beat. So I have played with players who, you know don’t quite have that kind of feel. It’s not that there’s something wrong with that, but it just doesn’t work for what I’m trying to achieve most of the time.