D.D. Jackson

I am an Emmy Award-winning composer and Juno Award-winning jazz pianist who specializes in writing, arranging, and producing memorable, custom-made music for t.v., film & other media. I consider myself an "artistic problem solver": I strive to get to the essential conceptual truth of what the client is looking for - and to express it in a creative and supportive way.


Past few months update...

It's been a very enjoyable last few months. Recently got back from a performance of my jazz opera "Quebecite" (pronounced "kay-BEH-see-tay") featuring a fascinatingly diverse assemblage of singers and instrumentalists: vocalists Martin Sola, Meetu Chilana, Yoon Choi and Dean Bowman; cellist Dana Leong, trumpeter Shane Endsley, drummer Reggie Nicholson, bassist Thomas Morgan, and myself as pianist/conductor. The work (written with librettist "Afro-Canadian" librettist George Elliott Clarke), traces the relationship between 2 interracial couples, one (modelled after my own parents), Black and Chinese; the other Indian and Haitian, and was originally premiered in a very ambitious, full-stage production at the 2003 Guelph Jazz Festival. In this instance, we did a much more manageable concert version, which allowed for focus on the music and words and the talents of those involved. I've been asked what a jazz opera really is. There's certainly no formal, defining answer, but I will say that I certainly attempted with the work to write with the specific voices in mind and to allow them to "do their thing", whether it was Yoon Choi's avant-garde vocalisms or Dean Bowman's passionate, soulful singing, or, in this new version's case, Dana Leong's remarkable cello soloing (occasionally - and surprisingly! - doubled with his own whistling!) I have to also add that I really learned something myself with this work after not having performed it in its entirety for a few years; namely, that it is, after all, surprisingly "transportable". In other words, despite originally being written with other voices in mind, I was very impressed with the quite different take on the material Martin Sola and Meetu Chilana brought to their respective roles of Ovide and Laxmi, and it really allowed me to hear - and perhaps appreciate - the work with fresh ears. We'll definitely have to find other avenues for it's performance down the line.

Prior to this event, I did a series of workshops and a duo performance with the same Dean Bowman, sponsored by the Guelph Jazz Festival and it's Artistic Director, Ajay Heble. Perhaps the most unusual moment in the week occurred when Dean and I were given the opportunity of coaching students at a Mennonite school outside of Guelph. The Mennonites are a religious group whose past intersects those of the Amish and at least superficially share many of the same traits, from horse-drawn carriages to a general disavowing of modern technology. Of course, we arrived nervously hiding our cameras, only to see that since the actual day of workshops was to take place in a typical Ontario public school, there were not only cameras flashing by some of the students but videotaping as well. Still, it was somewhat surreal to discover that the boys are expected to leave school for good after Grade 10; the girls after Grade 8, so that they can go and work on the farm - quite a different world...

In January (on my birthday, the 25th), I was in Paris to perform with baritone saxist Hamiet Bluiett and an all-star lineup of William Parker on bass, Hamid Drake on drums, Billy Bang on violin, and Ahmed Abdullah on trumpet as part of the Sons D'Hiver Festival. It was my first trip abroad since Obama's victory and I was anxious to see if "anything had changed" :-), but our stay was brief and focused enough that all I can say for certain was that the audiences were passionate and enthusiastic about our free-wheeling performance. Bluiett, in typical fashion at one point during the proceedings picked up his sax stand and positioned himself directly in front of a smiling, wheel-chaired audience member, so he could better enjoy the experience near-hands-on, and he later signalled the other "portable" players in the band to join him. All in all, a fun time....Of course, the most significant event of the past few months was the birth of our 2nd child, Aria Lilly Jackson, on Jan. 6th, 2009. Welcome to the world, Aria!