[10/3/2003] - DownBeat review of Suite for New York
[four stars] Everyone from a small city - even a national capital like Canada's Ottawa - has a powerful reaction to New York. Some are awed by its size and freneticism and retreat; others embrace it as the only place to be. Pianist D.D. Jackson has called it home since 1989, and for almost half of that time has been toying with compositional ideas that express the experience of living there as a Canadian expatriate. Like many others, the events of 9/11 galvanized his feelings. As ambitious and out-sized as the city itself, his Suite For New York employs an international cast and a sonic architecture complex enough to render the overlapping streams of urban conversation and noise.
This is new ground for Jackson, who has worked mostly in solo or trio settings, and he pursues several approaches to arranging his nonet. On "The City: Central Park Promenade & Conclusion", he places James Spaulding's gentle flute melody against the piano and the strings, creating an elegantly moving section reminiscent of Ellington. Following a propulsive, churning solo by baritone saxophonist David Molt, the band starts rolling in unison, providing a platform for some typically spiny keyboard pyrotechnics from the leader. For a pianist as ebullient and powerful as Jackson, fitting his instrument into this context may have been the biggest challenge of all, and he sometimes overcompensates by disappearing altogether. But, in general, his arrangements showcase his piano effectively, as when it emerges from the chaos of the apocalyptic movement of "Final Invocation (Towers Of Light)" or in the way it bookends the bustling "Hopes And Dreams: Main Section & Conclusion". At its best, Jackson's writing is both gentle and stirring, showcased here by his opening solo on "First Invocation", trumpeter Brad Turner's soliloquy on "Second Invocation" and the main theme of "Hopes And Dreams: Main Section & Conclusion".
- James Hale, DownBeat magazine, Oct./2003