Ron Jackson is one of the most versatile and well-traveled guitarists in New York City. With performances in over twenty countries, and collaborations with artists such as Taj Mahal, Little Anthony and The Imperials, Cissy Houston, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Benny Golson and Les Paul, Jackson earned his stripes long ago. He studied Jazz Composition and Arranging at The Berklee School of Music, and is now himself an instructor at several schools throughout the greater Metropolitan New York region. Jackson has also performed in the orchestra of such Broadway/off Broadway shows as Rent, Avenue Q, Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk and Saturday Night Fever. Jackson’s album, Flubby Dubby, produced by the legendary Melvin Sparks, shows off his signature soul/funk style of jazz guitar, refreshing in its energy and classic in its sound.
Flubby Dubby opens with “One For Melvin,” featuring stylishly laid back guitar work, and Hammond Organ work that’s absolutely over the top. The free-form style here is hot and highly entertaining, evoking a 1960′s Vegas chic. The energy here is fantastic. “The Look Of You” is frenetic and upbeat; one of those recordings that conveys the pure joy the musicians must have felt as they laid it down the first time. Jackson’s arrangement of Paul McCartney’s “The Long And Winding Road” uses the classic melody as a starting point, but quickly breaks into free-form improvisation. This is definitely a jazz take, but manages to keep McCartney’s distinctive melodicism intact even when spinning yarns grown far from the original melody line.
“Flubby Dubby” is a nearly eight-minute epic full of vibrant energy. Jackson pulls in the occasional Hendrix-inspired fugue, ala “Purple Haze”, which isn’t as perplexing as it might, at first, sound. ”Love Ballad” is a subtle turn that features some of Jackson’s best guitar work on the album, and the NPG-style horn section is a nice touch as well. Jackson’s take on Frank Perkins’ “Stars Fell On Alabama” features a sweet, lyric guitar style that speaks distinctly of the decade the song was born (1930′s). Organist Kyle Koehler gets a chance to show off here, sounding like he’s taking stylistic cues from Ray Charles and Miles Davis simultaneously. “Technophile” has a frantic feel, with synth/organ set to a complex house beat. It’s a tremendous listen that challenges the listener to keep up, and is a nice change of pace. “A Calypso Party” is a winsome little tune you’ll have a hard time not dancing along with. Flubby Dubby closes with “Get In The Country”, a dynamic free-form improv piece with serious hints of funk in the bass line. Jackson and Koehler exchange blistering solos that are very much worth sticking around for.
Most people can name the big names in jazz, just as in pop, rock, blues, country or other genres. Somewhere between those elite names and the scores of working musicians haunting jazz clubs all across the country are guys like Ron Jackson. Well known in the right circles, Ron Jackson is quietly one of the best jazz guitarists in music. Ask any big name musician who has taken part in the New York Jazz scene, and they will know exactly who Ron Jackson is. Its artists such as Jackson who help define the artistic brilliance of big names as session men and live support. But often such artists have as much talent (and sometimes more) than the folks they support. Jackson is known, but his name recognition is not requisite with his talent level. Flubby Dubby displays Jackson’s talent in inarguable terms, as a composer, arranger and performer. This is an album that’s difficult to put down.
Review by Wildy Haskell
Rating: 5 Stars (Out of 5)