[10/20/2006] - Coda magazine review of "Serenity Song"
Newlywed D.D. Jackson commemorates the serenity he feels in matrimony - as he tells us in his liner notes - on this rewarding set of originals. While Jackson claims that the calm of marriage has replaced some of the manic ambition he felt as a younger man, his music doesn't reflect the transformation. Indeed, his writing is as lively and diverse as ever here.
As pianist and a composer, Jackson has long been adept at tempering sweet-as-honey melodies with dissonance, and he's surrounded on this disc by bandmates that match him in this regard. Christian Howes, for example, moves effortlessly between acoustic and electric violins on the opener, "Chi-pin's Song," offering a languid solo on the former before exploring the latter's rougher timbres. Jackson's tribute to Charles Mingus, "Three Shades of Mingus," features the pianist in an appropriately raucous sextet setting with Howes on violin, Sam Newsome on soprano sax and Dana Leong on trombone. The solo round begins with a pleasingly strident exchange between Howes and Newsome, before Leong steps in for a more tuneful, bluesy exploration. Jackson follows with the Pullen-esque rumbling across the keyboard for which he's well-known.
While the boisterous numbers recall the fervor of Jackson's youthful writing, his newfound serenity is also well-represented. The title track is a charming ballad over lush changes, and "Love Theme from Quebecite," composed originally for Jackson's 2003 operatic collaboration with poet George Elliott Clarke, is haunting and expressive in a way that rivals the best of Michel Legrand or Nino Rota's classic themes.
Even in tranquility, Jackson avoides being tranquilizing, and shows that he can consistently produce stirring music.
- Michael Borshuk, Coda Magazine