gene jackson:

An international solo artist who also has the distinction of becoming the rhythmic linchpin of some of the classic contemporary jazz line-ups from the late 1980s onwards – notably sharing bandstands with Herbie Hancock, Dave Holland and Wayne Shorter – drummer, composer and arranger Gene Jackson needs little introduction to audiences the world over. His panoplied collaborations also include the names of Art Farmer, Christian McBride, Dianne Reeves, Kevin Eubanks, Eddie Gomez and Hugh Masekela, and he has enjoyed more than a decade imaginatively reinterpreting gems from our jazz heritage both on record and in concert with the popular New York Standards Quartet.

Jackson’s first love (in contrast to his multifarious, larger ensemble work) remains the piano trio: “Playing all those years with Herbie and Dave, I just fell in love with the environment”. So his debut release as leader – Trio NuYorx’s
Power of Love (Whirlwind, 2018) – celebrates this format through the close New York friendships he has forged with pianist Gabriel Guerrero and double bassist Carlo de Rosa. Though Philadelphia-born, the drummer is now mainly based in Japan; and there, he has established a second ensemble, Trio To-Kyo, with bassist Pat Glynn and pianist Mayuko Katakura, expanding his artistic vistas even wider amidst the creative melting pot of this bustling metropolis.

A fundamental desire to explore and develop ideas which are not governed by tradition or rules has carved out the pathways of Gene Jackson’s eminent career, adapting to multiple styles and genres. Yet increasingly, alongside his post-bop credentials, he embraces the strong and inseparable connections which American jazz piano and drums hold with Afro-Caribbean music, incorporating these exciting elements into his ongoing percussive and compositional journey.

Berklee-educated for five years, Jackson rubbed shoulders there with the likes of Walter Beasley, Branford Marsalis, Terri Lyne Carrington and Jeff “Tain” Watts, and it was guitarist Kevin Eubanks who brought him to New York – a move which would be pivotal in his early professional career. Working also with trombonist Robin Eubanks helped to immerse the drummer in the new vibe of the city’s jazz, embracing and merging odd meters and innovatory elements without compromising swing and tradition. At that time, Jackson’s musical circle included names which are now familiarly woven into the scene’s rich tapestry – Terence Blanchard, Jean Toussaint, Greg Osby, Gary Thomas, Anthony Cox, Lonnie Plaxico, Mulgrew Miller and Steve Coleman. Both touring and recording with pianist Michele Rosewoman, who focused on Afro-Cuban elements from the African Yoruba traditions, was hugely influential, introducing the drummer to Eddie Bobea, Orlando “Puntilla” Rios, Steve Berrios, Pedrito Martinez and others.

Lifelong connections continued to intertwine, meeting up with Billy Childs as they toured together with Branford Marsalis (the pianist subbing for Kenny Kirkland and Jackson for his good friend Jeff “Tain” Watts). Childs’ dual gift for 20th Century classical and jazz composition proved a great inspiration for Jackson, and as well as gigging together, they recorded an album with Joe Locke and Eddie Gomez.

1991 saw Jackson’s first tour with the Herbie Hancock/Wayne Shorter Quartet – a transformative experience which elevated him to command the drum stool in Herbie Hancock’s evolving trio and quartet projects, consistently touring across the globe from 1993–2000 (“I had the honor of witnessing this magic night after night for years…”). The resulting association with Dave Holland also saw him become integrated into the illustrious bassist’s own band, together pushing the boundaries of tradition. Since the early noughties, he has toured with pianist Orrin Evans, whose determination to respect the swing, yet move the music eloquently to the future, has been endlessly stimulating. It has been Jackson’s great honor, more recently, to tour and record with Charles Tolliver – the last of the heroes of the golden days of jazz – and his big band; and his colleagues there have included Billy Harper, Rufus Reid, Kurt Lightsey, Stanley Cowell, Ronne Mathews and Dwayne Burno. He has also recorded and toured with German saxophonist Christof Lauer, the NDR Big Band, the Mingus Big Band, and performs with Trio of Liberty, Mayuko Katakura Trio, Raymond McMorrin Quartet and Ondrej Stveracek’s Quartet.

Influenced from an early age by artists including Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and Tony Williams, Gene Jackson proudly shares his knowledge with the next generation of musicians, currently a visiting Professor at Tokyo’s Senzoku Gakuen College of Music; and he has been teacher in rotation at Prins Claus Conservatorium in the Netherlands – part of bassist Joris Teepe’s ‘New York Comes to Groningen’ program. The drummer is active in Japan, Europe and the United States with tours, recordings and workshops; and he revels in his educational role, affirming how rewarding that can be, “especially when I help the student see that many of the answers they look for are in themselves”.

Along a timeline glinting with highlight after highlight, Gene Jackson is emphatically rooted in music history… and continues to blaze a trail with unerring passion.

Words by Adrian Pallant 2018

Thanks to my teachers: Greg McDonald, Robert Zollman, John Ramsay, Lenny Nelson, Alan Dawson, and Sam Ulano.

フィラデルフィア生まれ。'79年にバークリー音楽大学へ進学し、'87年にNew Yorkに移り Kevin Eubanks のバンドに参加。'91年から“Herbie Hancock & Wayne Shorter Quartet”'93年から2000年まで“Herbie Hancock Trio / Quartet”のドラマーを務め世界中をツアー('95 - '98には Dave Holland とも共演)。
他に、Branford Marsalis, Robin Eubanks, Mark Whitfield, Cyrus Chestnut, Greg Osby, Eddie Gomez, Charles Tolliver Bigband, Mingus Bigband, Dianne Reeves, Christian McBride, Billy Childs, Michele Rosewoman, Claudia Acuna, Monday Michiru, 大西順子, Tony Monaco & 小沼ようすけ 等多数のワールドクラスミュージシャンと共演。ジャズフェスティバル、ツアー、150を超えるレコーディング等、数多くのプロジェクトに携わる。また、演奏活動の他に各国でのクリニックやワークショップ等で指導にも力を注いでいる。2018年4月、初のリーダーアルバム「Power Of Love」をリリース。

Gene Jackson, Live drum track on SoundBetter