In 25 years as a recording artist, tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson had never made a live record as a leader...until now. With his new Smoke Sessions title Expression, the wait is finally over. To an instinctive perfectionist like Jackson, live recording presents a different set of challenges from a studio session, but he did learn first-hand from none other than Art Blakey, after all, to prepare, prepare, prepare and then leave it all on the stage. In fact, Jackson opens the record with Wayne Shorter's "One by One" which famously appeared 50 years ago on one of Blakey's many live recordings, Ugetsu. The results have a natural energy and relaxed quality that are difficult to capture in the studio. This record documents some of Jackson's personal favorites and he credits the live atmosphere for delivering what he feels are his definitive versions.
He includes modern classics like Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'bout a Thing," Donnie Hathaway and Roberta Flack's hit "Where is the Love," and the timeless "When I Fall in Love," that are trademark Javon-accessible but enlightening.
The quartet, called the Javon Jackson Band, features bassist Corcoran Holt, drummer McClenty Hunter and, for the first time, Orrin Evans. One of the busiest pianists in Philadelphia or in New York, Evans fit in with the group instantly and Jackson valued the fresh approach and playing that he brought to the music. A striking example of their rapport is the groove they strike on George Cable's '70s classic "Think on Me." It's a certifiable hit but there is simply a lot of great music on Expression. With a record this good, it's a safe bet that Jackson won't wait another 25 years to make the sequel.