[10/10/2006] - Downbeat magazine [four star] review of Serenity Song
[Four Stars] D.D. Jackson has provided a commentary - in liner notes and at this web site - on Serenity Song's music. It's worth reading, but it's a good idea to postpone that pleasure until after you've given this album a few spins. Its drama and emotion are best savored without preconception.
Jackson's playing balances between technical finesse and an intensity that suggests the whole package could spin out of control at any minute. This is clearest on the up tracks, including "Three Shades of Mingus", a brisk blow-fest built around dizzy accelerandos, ensemble meltdowns that function as heads at the end of solos and thunderous piano clusters that nonetheless convey the melodic essence of the theme. Given the title, Ugonna Okegwo has an unenviable task, and while he can't match the subject of this tribute in raw power and assertiveness, he does acquite himself admirably.
Not all of the album is so lacking in serenity. In fact, Jackson exhibits an exceptional range of expression within the context of his trio. Part of this comes from his selective use of guest artists: "The Con" pares down to Jackson and soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome, engaged in a sly and stealthy prowl past trills that flare and sparkle unexpectedly in shadows, and creeping up to sudden pauses. Jackson shares the spotlight elsewhere too, most generously on "Etude", a 7/8 spring through complex lines and shaded dynamics that also allows room for drummer Dafnis Prieto to unleash a deft solo and trade a few fours.
All of this, as well as "Taiwan Moments," "Love Theme from Quebecite", whose theme Dana Leong interprets on cello, and "Lushly,"...bears personal and artistic significance.
- Robert Doerschuk, November/06 Downbeat Magazine