[2/3/2003] - "Jackson Breaks Free to Follow Jazz Whim"
D.D. Jackson had a distinctive means of busting free from authority during his years as an undergraduate at Indiana University in Bloomington.
He spent most of his time training to become a classical pianist. He learned to master the complex creations of Mozart, Beethoven and Shostakovich.
Yet he yearned to break free from the shackles.
He yearned to play jazz.
"My form of rebellion was to sneak a few minutes on the piano to play off the top of my head," Jackson says from his home in New York City.
When Jackson applied for graduate school at the Manhattan School of Music, he first sought to continue his training as a classical musician.
Then, "on a whim," he says, he also applied as a jazz major. He expected little from his whim.
He was accepted into both programs, forcing a decision. He stepped away from the classical realm.
And chose jazz.
Jackson performs Thursday and Friday nights at Le Moyne College's Coyne Center for the Performing Arts. Thursday's 7:30 p.m. performance features Jackson working solo on the piano, and Friday's 8 p.m. performance features Jackson with bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Victor Jones. Both performances feature Jackson's original music.
''It should be fun,'' Jackson says of Friday's jazz trio show. ''I call Ugonna and Victor groove meisters. They have such perfect rhythm, and we'll be choosing tunes from my repertoire that have a bit more groove to them.''
Jackson's concerts are part of the Music Journeys program, which brings artists to Syracuse public schools to play and discuss music. He will perform for students this week at Salem Hyde Elementary School and Lincoln, Levy and Grant middle schools.
Friday's show also features music from Jackson's upcoming Justin Time CD, ''Suite for New York,'' which serves as a celebration for the pianist's adopted city. Jackson grew up in Ottawa but has claimed New York as his new hometown.
''I don't want to seem opportunistic,'' Jackson says of the CD's release after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy.
He says he wrote most of the music before 9/11 and then added a final movement, ''Towers of Light,'' after the World Trade Center collapsed.
The suite's finale, he says, ''became an unintended meditation of everything that the city means to me.''
Jackson roams between solemn and rollicking realms of music. He's a musician who swings between rowdy and elegant, often on the same song. His playing delivers the precision of a classical performer, but he still adores breaking free of the shackles.
The Village Voice's Gary Giddins, a respected jazz critic, described Jackson as an ''extraordinary pianist whose technical bravura is matched by a capacious hunger for adventure. ... His fingers can roll slick blues and bombard the keyboard with stormy bravado ... an astonishing technician.
- David Ramsey, Syracuse Post-Standard