D.D. Jackson - piano (plus organ on tracks 1 and 4)
Ugonna Okegwo - acoustic bass
Dafnis Prieto - drums (plus percussion on track 7)
With special guests:
Sam Newsome - soprano sax (tracks 5,6, 9 & 10)
Christian Howes - electric & acoustic violins, bass violin (tracks 1, 6, 8, 10, 11)
Dana Leong - trombone (track 6), cello (tracks 7 and 10)
All compositions written, arranged, produced and published by D.D. Jackson.
When my career first began gaining traction, I used to muse in early interviews that I wanted to be a “David Murray”-type musician, one who was seemingly always out there working, 24 hours a day. Little could I have imagined back then that there would come a time when the natural “high” from performing and composing would be matched by the high achieved from the inviting bliss of settling down and marriage. On “Serenity Song”, the title tune is meant to evoke precisely this sense of tranquility I experience each day waking up next to my wife, Elizabeth. But in many ways, this entire CD can be considered a “Serenity Song” about this new phase of my life, since the compositions - whether introspective, occasionally more enjoyably “manic”, but hopefully always tuneful and conceptually open - all emerged during this new stage. Some additional thoughts:
“Chi-pin’s Song” is dedicated to the great Taiwanese violinist Chi-pin Hsieh, with whom I had the pleasure of performing during a concert I gave in Taipei one year ago. In it I try to capture his spirit of grounded melody mixed with adventure (qualities shared by my long-time violinist collaborator featured on this track, Christian Howes, whom you’ll hear switch deftly from acoustic to more amplified textures with his typical casual ease). “Taiwan Moments” is a gentler waltz featuring my trio that also emerged from the same concert in Taipei and is my reflection on that wonderful city.
“Etude” features my longtime collaborator, the great Cuban wunderkind drummer Dafnis Prieto, in which I attempt (as usual, unsuccessfully!) to “trip him up” with irregular rhythms at a fiery, virtuosic pace in the context of a classically-inspired melody. “Nocturne” was originally written with tenor saxist David Murray in mind, but I thought would be a perfect vehicle for Sam Newsome’s wonderful biting, yet lyrical soprano saxophone tone for this first recording of the work.
“Three Shades of Mingus” is an ode to the great bassist/composer Charles Mingus, in whose bands my two principal teachers – pianists Jaki Byard and Don Pullen – were both key members at different times. It features Sam on soprano, and also the multi-faceted Dana Leong on trombone.
“Love Theme from Québécité” (pronounced “Kay-BEH-see-tay”) is the main theme from a jazz opera I premiered in Canada a couple of years ago at the Guelph Jazz Festival, written with renowned “Afro-Scotian” poet and Trudeau Fellow George Elliott Clarke. The opera was particularly meaningful to me in that it was derived in part from the life story of my Chinese mother and African-American father. Dana Leong is again featured here, but this time (with an equal facility that always impresses me) on cello. From the same opera also comes the composition “Lushly”, featuring my longtime bassist Ugonna Okegwo and Chris Howes’ deft bass violin. (A vocal version of this piece also has the distinction of being the “title tune” performed at my wedding!)
“The Con” and “Sam He Is” are compositions I wrote with Sam Newsome’s sound and conceptual approach very much in mind, and consequently are both in many ways celebrations of the elements of his playing and composing that I most enjoy. Finally, “The Recovery” (with Chris on delicate string overdubs) was written in memory of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and also in tribute to its survivors’ struggles during the (at times disastrous) governmental recovery efforts.
A final note of thanks to the great musicians with whom I had the honor of recording, from my core trio of Dafnis Prieto and Ugonna Okegwo, to my special guests Christian Howes, Sam Newsome and Dana Leong. Thanks also to Jim Anderson for his expert recording and mixing and easy manner in the studio, and to Avatar Studios; to Alan Silverman for his marvelously perfectionistic mastering; to Enid for her wonderful photos; to Jim West, J.P., Jadro, Reid and everyone else at Justin Time; to Lisa and Gerhard Feldmann at Bosendorfer for their exquisite Imperial Concert Grand; to Brian Camelio and everyone at Artistshare; to my fans; and, as always, to my family for their never-ending love and support (with particular thanks to my brother Shaw for videotaping the entire session for use as Artistshare content!)
This album is dedicated with love and appreciation to my wife, Elizabeth Moglia Jackson.
- D.D. Jackson, Apr./06