Irwin Block, the Montreal Gazette[12/11/2002] - "Restless Talent Alights Here"
Pianist D.D. Jackson loves to prance across the keyboard like a Mikhail Baryshnikov soaring to a far-off beloved.
The Ottawa-born, classically trained virtuoso likes to punctuate rather than decorate.
But he also roams tenderly into the celestial spaces on a ballad, which he accents with a decidedly percussive style.
Jackson, 35, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a man of restless talent who studied with Menahem Pressler at the University of Indiana before turning to jazz with the late Jaki Byard.
Jackson never stays in one place musically; his latest take on the jazz idiom will be on display when he brings his trio to the Salle Pierre Mercure at the Centre Pierre P?ladeau Saturday night.
This is, after all, the city where Jackson helped kickstart his career by dazzling a Montreal International Jazz Festival audience in 1994.
Listening to his last CD, the highly praised Sigame (on Justin Time Records), you hear Jackson delve into a gamut of styles, from groove-oriented pieces and Spanish-flavoured tunes to pieces highlighted by Don Pullen-like clusters.
With Ugonna Okegwo on bass and Dafnis Prieto on drums and percussion, Jackson finds plenty of opportunity to add layers of rhythm by playing off his sidemen as he improvises around his own melodies.
Sigame - "follow me" in Spanish - is a high-energy production that reflects Jackson's stylistic variety.
"It's just my nature. I'm always trying to do something different in each project and hope that it's all funneled through my musical sensibility," he said this week from his Brooklyn home.
Jackson describes Sigame as "a bit more of a hybrid, centred around what the drummer does, to organically fuse Latin and jazz in seamless whole."
"It's groove-oriented but pared down, with impeccable time."
Jackson says he has no interest in following the leads of Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau in incorporating rock rhythms and instrumentation into their work.
"What is lost in the long run is that jazz is an enduring art form that does not require pushing and prodding in a self-conscious way."
The thrill of playing and listening to spontaneously improvised music that is at the heart of jazz has a timeless appeal, Jackson notes.
Though instrumental jazz is going through a tough period in terms of sales, Jackson is convinced "it will survive, but but it is not going to sell like Michael Jackson or Britney Spears.
"It will always have a very passionate niche audience," he said.
Jackson is hard at work on his next projects, studying Broadway musicals and researching a jazz opera.
"This opera has been commissioned by the Guelph Jazz Festival, it's called Qu?bec-it? and (Nova Scotia-born poet) George Elliott Clarke is writing the libretto."
He'll also be recording at the Piccolo studio here with the trio along with cellist Peggy Lee and Christian Howes on violin, but Jackson says Saturday's concert in one of the city's finest halls is the immediate thrill. "I am very excited about bringing this particular trio and happy to finally come back to Montreal."
- Irwin Block, the Montreal Gazette