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 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 being one of the main, Emmy Award-winning composers for the now 7 Emmy-Awards-winning show “Peg + Cat” (PBS), and “The Wonder Pets” (which recently received its fourth consecutive Emmy for “Outstanding Music Direction and Composition”). Also on his reel are numerous episodes of BBC Worldwide’s “3rd & Bird!” (currently featured on Disney Junior in the U.S.), and the entire 26-episode second season of the Canadian children’s TV show “The Ocean Room”, which won the Gemini (“Canadian Emmy”) Award for “Best Preschool Series”.
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, saxophonist 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