D.D. Jackson

I am a two-time Emmy Award-winning composer, and Juno Award-winning jazz pianist and educator. As a composer, I specialize 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. [READ MORE] or [BIO]

- D.D. Jackson - solo piano.

D.D. Jackson played a Bosendorfer Imperial Concert Grand for this recording.

All compositions written by D.D. Jackson except "I Mean You" (Thelonious Monk), "Come Sunday" (Duke Ellington) and "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" (Charles Mingus)

Produced by D.D. Jackson

Thank-you's and dedication

With appreciation to those who have helped me "…so far":

Thanks to my father for your love and support through the years and my mother, who was always ready to talk about me to anyone who would listen, right up to the end; Thanks to my older brother Chris, who first turned me on to jazz before I even realized I was interested, and my brothers Shaw and Charley for your unselfish pride in my accomplishments; Thanks to Katie; Thanks to Don Pullen my mentor, Jaki Byard, my first real jazz teacher, and Dina Namer, my first piano teacher; Thanks to David Murray, Billy Bang, Craig Harris, Hugh Ragin, James Spaulding, Dennis Charles, Kip Hanrahan, Billy Hart, Jane Bunnett, and all of the others who have taught me so much; Thanks to Steve Gates and RCA Victor, along with Bob Belden and Steve Backer, for making it happen; Thanks to Bret, Joel, Ben, Addison, Joe, Tracie, and my other NY friends, my "long lost friend" Phil and the Weisman Art Museum for the "trial run", and my Canadian friends Steve, Peter, Tim, Ken, and Glenn; Thanks to the Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council, and the Ottawa and Montreal International Jazz Festivals for your early support of my career and to Jim West & co. for your patience and past support; Thanks to Billy Szawlowski for your "diplomacy skills" and excellent sound, Renee Marc-Aurele for your excellent mastering, Francis Davis for your words, and Bösendorfer for those extra 9 notes(!); Thanks to Martine and Eric for past help; Thanks to my extended family on both sides in Knoxville, Chicago, New York, California, and D.C….And thanks to all the performance venues, teachers, fans, and friends who have encouraged me over the years. - D.D. Jackson

This album is dedicated to the memory of Jaki Byard and Fred Hopkins.

Liner Notes excerpt (by Francis Davis):

"D.D. Jackson is to me the most innovative musician of his generation.
-- David Murray, in The Village Voice, 1997

Remember that generic music biopic Hollywood made again and again well into the 1950s? The son of immigrants shows musical talent practically from the cradle. Delighted to have a prodigy on its hands, the family does without to buy him an instrument and lessons. Everything's going along fine until the budding genius enters a conservatory. His mentor is a tyrant, and besides, our hero has discovered JAZZ -- a form of music without merit to the ears of his parents and teachers, but one in which he recognizes the opportunity for self-expression that drew him to music in the first place. Years later, after becoming a famous jazz musician, our hero writes a symphony and performs it with a full orchestra on the stage of Carnegie Hall. His folks are proud of him, but no prouder than we are, by golly, because his rise from humble beginnings and determination to follow his own star are reminders that America is the land of opportunity.


This isn't The D.D. Jackson Story, though he was a prodigy, though he did walk out on his world-famous piano teacher at Indiana University, and though he is, in fact, writing a symphony. For one thing, these melodramas usually begin in the ‘teens or 1920s, when most highbrows looked down on jazz as common. Jackson was born in 1967 and began his studies at Indiana in the 1980s, by which point jazz was acknowledged to have had such a profound effect on "serious" music that he might reasonably have expected his teachers to applaud his desire to improvise. Such movies as "The Benny Goodman Story" or "Rhapsody in Blue" are as much about assimilation and upward mobility as they are about music, and as the offspring of a mother born in mainland China and an African-American father, Robert Cleath Kai-Nien Jackson might seem to be just what the scriptwriter ordered. But Jackson is originally from Canada, a country he describes as differing from its close neighbor in that "there isn't as much an obsession to classify who you are by what you are." He wasn't even made conscious of race or ethnicity, he says, until his father -- a professor of Spanish at Carleton University, in Ottawa -- accepted a position as head of the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Tennessee, when Jackson was thirteen. "The job was very important to him, because Knoxville was his home town, and this was a college he hadn't been able to attend as a student, on account of being black," Jackson remembers. "But we wound up returning with him to Carleton after a year, for various reasons."
The biggest difference of all might be that Jackson didn't suddenly embrace jazz as an undergraduate. "I realize now that I was always more of an improviser than an interpreter," he says, "because from the very beginning, a lot of what I was doing was by ear. When I was quite young, my mother [the daughter of an ambassador from Nationalist China to the United Nations] decided to give my older brother, Chris, recorder lessons, and though I don't remember any of this myself, she said in an family history that she dictated on tape a few months before her death in 1995 that I used to amaze her by picking up the recorder and creating my own melodies. I know I distressed some of my early classical piano teachers because my interpretations tended to be freewheeling and heavily influenced by whatever recordings I happened to be listening to. So if I was listening to Glenn Gould play Mozart, my Mozart would sound a little like his, which is to say almost Bach-like.

"Very early on, I heard Oscar Peterson, a fellow Canadian, and I think that forward momentum of his and the blues sensibility he brings to everything he does were what drew me to jazz. Then, there was an album of Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock duets that my brother turned me on to. I first heard a lot of things that way, because of Chris."

A turning point for Jackson was his brother's death from a rare genetic disease in 1986. "It feels selfish to say it, but his death made me who I am today by making me realize that I was in danger of throwing my own life away. Up to then, I was trying so hard to please everybody else, including my parents and teachers, that I was making myself miserable. After his death, I didn't care about that anymore. I completed my degree, because it's satisfying to finish what you've started, but I knew that classical music wasn't going to be my life."

Jazz was, yet when he relocated to New York in 1989 to continue his studies and began gigging around town, the jazz world seemed in peril of becoming as hidebound as the..."