Paul Jackson 2013

“I was about nine or ten years old and I got into the Black Hawk to see Miles Davis; and seeing Paul Chambers with that beautiful cherry cherub on top of the base man. And I saw John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, JJ Johnson; that whole thing. Because they had what they called the Kiddie Corner; so it was an amazing experience I got to have.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Born in 1947, American jazz bassist, vocalist, arranger and composer, Paul Jackson has been a dedicated exponent of his art since he was a boy. Though he has released numerous albums under his own name, it is his collaborations with Herbie Hancock et al as part of Jazz Fusion collective, The Headhunters that notably most people will align him to. In town to play two nights at London’s Ronnie Scott’s alongside three other gifted musicians – Randy Brecker (guest trumpet), Tony Match (drums) and Xantoné Blacq (keys, percussions and vocals) as the
Paul Jackson Quartet; Mr Jackson with a little help from Mr Brecker took time out prior to his first nights performance to give UK Vibe’s Michael “The Dood” Edwards a brief snapshot of his career thus far before taking to the stage.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: So Mr Jackson, how did you get started in this music thang?

Paul Jackson: In Church, I was one of four siblings. Both of my grandmothers were Pentecostal prep teachers; and they were the preachers in the church. And they had very strict Christian beliefs… So I went to Bible school and did the whole thing; I read the entire Bible.

The Dood: Instrument wise, where did it start for you?

Paul Jackson: Instrument wise, both grandmothers played guitar; my mother played piano and my father was a bebop pianist, he played honky-tonk – straight from Jelly Roll Morton all the way through.

The Dood: Where did you grow up?

Paul Jackson: I grew up in Oakland, and every summer I was sent back to my grandmother’s farm to learn manners (laughs openly); and also to get the experience of being out on the farm and working there. And that was actually really pleasant, except for the part where she said I want that Turkey and you have to chase it up underneath the house (laughs freely).

The Dood: Were you hearing musical influences around the house?

Paul Jackson: Out in California we had a nice little old Motorola thing. My father was a security guard at the California hotel and other venues, so he got into all the concerts. I was about nine or ten years old and I got into the Black Hawk to see Miles Davis; and seeing Paul Chambers with that beautiful cherry cherub on top of the base man. And i saw John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, JJ Johnson; that whole thing. Because they had what they called the Kiddie Corner; so it was an amazing experience I got to have.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

But as soon as I heard that base man, I said oh! I said to myself I’ve got to go and try that out man, so I went back to my Junior High School music teacher and picked one up. And that’s when I found out what was happening! Because playing wood-bass, the first thing you do is you grab it and you put in between your legs (chuckles). You play that E-string and it vibrates your adolescence (laughs raucously). I said, “I like this instrument!” (Laughs again). “I really like this instrument; I’m going to play this!”

The Dood: So it was love from then on?

Paul Jackson: Oh Yeah!

The Dood: So Paul Chambers was a big influence?

Paul Jackson: Yes, but as I said my father made friends with a lot of different people. James Brown would come over to eat dinner and JJ Johnson would show up at a house party. It was amazing! Or he’d take me down to do watch James Brown while he’s making Please! Please! Please! in the garage! I got to see the best behind the scenes stuff of what’s happening. I went to all the different clubs in Oakland such as The Showcase Lounge and the Carousel and more.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: So you would have been about what age at this time?
Paul Jackson: Actually I started playing in clubs when I was about 12 years old. And the beautiful part about it was that it was made very clear to me; keep your grades up, or you can’t do it. I worked extra hard! I kept my grades up; my father would drive me to the job and come pick me up after and take me home. I had a string bass; he didn’t want me riding the bus with it or anything else. He would actually come and pick me up, and take me to all these jobs, from the time I was like twelve/twelve and a half/thirteen.

The Dood: It’s like in the NFL and NBA; you have to achieve certain grades before you can get on the college team.

Paul Jackson: Oh yeah I know; I kept a B+/A average – Definitely! At seventeen years old I played with McCoy Tyner; that’s when I first met him, playing in a small club in Berkley. I’ve played with Trevor Colder and I’ve watched Sun Ra. I got a chance to see a lot of lovely people. I got to play with a lot of people that aren’t around anymore.

The Dood: And you always had your trusted bass at hand?

Paul Jackson: At the point of adolescence I was a bass player (Laughs). When I felt that, it was over. It was really over!

The Dood: Can you tell us the qualities of the other musicians you’ve put together to make up the Paul Jackson Quartet

paul-jackson-05Paul Jackson and Xantoné Blacq

Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Paul Jackson: The whole thing is very simple – It’s more the chemistry between personalities than it is of the actual playing abilities; playing develops later. But the thing is because of the personalities that is where the potential shows up. It’s like I knew I had an absolutely great man, as soon as I found out I had a man named The Magnificent Xantoné Blacq.
(Right on cue Xantoné Blacq enters the room, followed by guest trumpet virtuoso Randy Brecker)

Paul Jackson: And this guy is not “The Magnificent” because of any overblown ego or anything, he is TRULY magnificent! (Laughter all around)

The Dood: And a few words on your good friend Randy Brecker here?

Paul Jackson: Randy is like a God damn amoeba, he just destroys everybody! (Laughter)

Randy Brecker: Well put, I wouldn’t have thought of that myself!

The Dood: Would you like to retort to that complement Randy?

Randy Brecker: Well, it was really easy to fit in, these guys play really well together; you can tell there’s a lot of love on the bandstand. We barely rehearsed – literally; and we just kinda hit it. I didn’t know what was gonna come next, but whatever came next was great; so I just joined right in.

The Dood: When was this particular line up formed?

Maurizio Della Fortuna (Band Manager): Basically this is the first time the four of them have played together; but the trio has been going for about a year. Do you believe in alchemy?

The Dood: I do.

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Paul Jackson, Maurizio Della Fortuna & Randy Brecker

Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Paul Jackson: That’s right! We are very close to gold (laughs).

The Dood: Randy, just before you walked in Paul was saying that it’s not necessary great musicians, but great personalities which click first, would you concur with that?

Randy Jackson: Yeah! I would wholeheartedly concur, but this is both; these guys can really play and you can tell like I said already there’s a whole lot of love on that bandstand. It’s just really evident from the first note that we love to play together.

Paul Jackson: I’ve had so many people come up to me asking each where they can get the CD with that track “Midnight” on it. And that’s gonna be the first thing that we work on when we get to Tokyo.

The Dood: I take it this is from the new CD. Will you be performing it tonight?

Paul Jackson: Oh yes! You’ll hear it; it’s a new song and it’s the third song in.

Randy Brecker: They’ve got great material; they conjured up some really good tunes.

The Dood: Sounds like the new Headhunters coming together! Speaking of The Headhunters, is there any chance of a possible reunion?

Paul Jackson: On my website www.pauljacksonbass.com I explain that I have talked with Herbie (Hancock). Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters will never ever perform again!

The Dood: Can you say that categorically?

Paul Jackson: I guarantee it. However, he has offered me a session to play with him as an individual. But I know that he doesn’t want to play with the Headhunters. Actually, he said I can take the band if I want to; but for him it is in the past. The concept has evolved. If I was to take it on, I would approach it with the base unit being a trio and then have everybody I ever dreamed of playing with! (Laughs freely)

Randy Brecker: That’s a great idea.

Paul Jackson: And there’s just one more thing I want to do, and that’s called “The Bucket List Band” (Both Paul and Randy laugh raucously)

The Dood: Do you have a set list for the evening?

Paul Jackson: A set list? We have no set list; we have momentary memory lapses (laughs). I look at the audience; the first thing I do during the first song is engage. I figure that if I can get 20% of the first row to roll their eyes back in their heads, then I’ve got the them (Laughs) And you’ll see what I mean… Sit close! (Laughs knowingly)

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: As Tony Match (drummer) is sitting here, let me ask you this question – how important is it for the drummer and bass player to be in sync?

Paul Jackson: It’s the hypnotic, the instinctive thing, that’s what we have.

The Dood: What advice can you give to young aspiring musicians today?

Paul Jackson: Practice your arse off! The young musicians now are absolute monsters! I have so much fun playing with musicians’ man. They’ve got plenty of fucking chops! It’s tremendous/fantastic shit that they play; now all they have to do is find out how to deal with it in some sort of a musical content, so it actually says something. The main thing I found out is that once they get past showing their chops is can they give me some emotional content to it so I can understand it.

The Dood: Randy, do you have anything to add to that?

Randy Brecker: I would just say, be as versatile as possible to different styles of music, because there’s not a lot of work out there and the more you can do a better. It’s just numbers; so try to be as well rounded as possible you young guys. But it’s true what he (Paul) said about technique; it’s partly about technique but the main thing is the emotion and the expression behind the notes.

The Dood: And on your particular instrument, the trumpet, who were your particular influences?

Randy Brecker: Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown; Freddie (Hubbard), Woody; it goes all the way back to Louis Armstrong. I can’t really even pinpoint one anymore, it’s just the whole history and its influence on me.

paul-jackson-08Paul Jackson & Tony Match

Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Paul Jackson: The Oscar Peterson Trio; that was the start for me. Oscar Pettiford, George Merle – oh my God! Some of the unknown jazzmen; oh deep! I mean really deep – Scott McPhail; monsters man you know.

The Dood: Thanks for your time guys and have a great show.

Michael J Edwards

Essential Website:
Paul Jackson Bass

Essential Tour Dates:
http://www.pauljacksonbass.com/appear.php

Essential Album:
Black Octopus 1978
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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

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