Truthfulness in music is a precious commodity. For those who experience D.D. Jackson as a composer, collaborator or performer, that authenticity is easy to see. A pioneering jazz pianist and double Emmy Award-winning composer once noted by the Village Voice for his “hunger for adventure”, Jackson pours honest passion into every one of his projects – from attention-getting scores for multiple Emmy Award-winning TV series to his Juno Award-winning recordings.
A fixture on the world’s stages for the last two decades, the NYC-based, classically-trained Jackson is looming ever larger in TV/film composing circles as well, turning the elements of his improvisational discipline to his advantage when working with directors, producers and music supervisors.
“I consider myself an ‘artistic problem solver,’” Jackson says. “I strive to get to the essential conceptual truth of what the client is looking for – and to express it in an original and supportive way. As with jazz, writing music for media is really a highly collaborative art form that requires fast thinking, an ability to be open-minded and embrace new directions, and a willingness and even eagerness to work with and be inspired by others.
“I think this is why so many composers for media often seem to have extensive jazz or other related backgrounds – it’s just an incredibly natural fit, and for me, the obvious choice. Media is also a highly deadline-driven world, an approach I whole-heartedly embrace. In fact, one of my favorite quotes is by Duke Ellington: ‘I don’t need time, I need a deadline!’”
Working on those deadlines, Jackson’s recent credits include two Emmy Awards (one as composer and one as songwriter with lyricist Billy Aronson), among his 5 total Emmy nominations, on the now 8-Emmy-winning show “Peg + Cat” (PBS), and “The Wonder Pets” (which received an Emmy for “Outstanding Music Direction and Composition” in every year of its four-year run). A further sampling of his reel might include: numerous episodes of “3rd & Bird!” (BBC Worldwide/Disney Jr.), “The Ocean Room” (which won the Gemini Award for “Best Preschool Series”), Esme & Roy (Sesame Studios/HBO), Sunny Day (Nickelodeon), and the near 3-million-viewed theme song for Sesame Studios' "Marvie" on Youtube.
The visual media assignments go hand-in-hand with Jackson’s long track record as an artist to watch in the worlds of jazz, classical and beyond. In addition to collaborations with luminaries on the level of drummer Jack Dejohnette, saxophonists David Murray and James Carter, and Questlove and The Roots, Jackson’s albums have netted him six Juno Awards nominations (the “Canadian Grammy”) for his twelve albums, with a win in 2000 for his RCA solo disc “..so far”. Jackson’s expansive portfolio also includes music composition for theater, opera, orchestra and dance, in styles ranging from fiery solo works to large-scale orchestrations [see his full Discography and Awards here].
“I think that the connecting thread among all my work has been a strong melodic sensibility, no matter what the context — which is probably why I’ve found myself lately doing a lot of children’s television, where a singable melody is paramount!” notes Jackson. “But whatever the genre - whether doing commissions, children's t.v., or arrangements for such diverse artists as Kygo and The Roots - my goal is to quickly grasp the essence of what the client is looking for, and to deliver it with the highest level of musical sensitivity. I want to help make the final project even better.
“Ultimately, it’s really all about understanding and contributing to the client’s vision,” he concludes. “Bringing something to the table that feels inevitable and perfect: something that couldn’t have come from any other source.” Delivering it all with honesty and dedication is what defines it as purely D.D. Jackson.
— David Weiss