D.D. Jackson Group in Japan
Just returned from my 3rd sojourn to Japan, this time the first as leader of my group. I brought a slightly scaled down version of the D.D. Jackson Group - myself playing piano and Roland VK-7 (a very sophisticated Hammond B3 organ emulator keyboard, which I brought over from NY); Chris Howes on el. violin; Andy Woodson on a brand new fretless bass he bought with a wonderful wooden, full tone; and James Gaiters playing drums. We did what I often jokingly refer to as the "elitist" circuit - extremely small venues (some holding only 20 people), but with quite large cover charges. The irony is that despite the typically small size of the rooms, I really think we ended up playing some of our best music. People have often said that the music of the D.D. Jackson Group was better suited to outdoor jazz festivals, since there is a powerful, rock-like and electric element to the writing and playing. Yet we paradoxically found that the smaller the room, the more we broke down textures, and truly listened and interacted with each other.
I think this perspective reached it's zenith during our 2nd last gig, at the Body and Soul club in Tokyo. Again - tiny, but very complete room; wonderful sympathetic owners; small but exceedingly enthusiastic audience (people who actually applauded in recognition, for example, when I announced I was playing my piece "Peace Song", which I had previously performed with David Murray in Japan on a number of occasions). Perhaps it was just the looseness that inherently occurs after travelling for a couple of weeks, but we literally laughed our way through the final set that night. The audience picked up on it, and so the overriding atmosphere was one of the giddiness of the moment, as we pulled and pushed the material with which we had become so familiar in new ways, and shared our discoveries with the receptive crowd. [click here for some live MP3 files from this Body and Soul gig]
Similarly, I had also performed a solo piano concert as part of the tour, in Nagano a few days earlier. Again - tiny, tiny crowd, but perhaps the best solo concert thus far of my career (from my very biased subjective perspective), and a truly great time. Afterwards we all sat down for the traditional post-concert meal. A woman who had heard me perform there with David 2 years ago in broken English explained that she, too, was a pianist, and proceeded to sit down and play a broken version of Bach's "Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring", inviting me to continue. Still meditative from the concert earlier, I volunteered to do my "jazz spin" on the piece, and I'll never forget leaving the club that night to the delighted standing ovation of the owner and the few remaining guests in appreciation of the last minute improv....