By Andrew Poretz . . .

There are so few seven-string jazz guitarists in the world that by default, any one of them is one of the best.  Still, Ron Jackson would make this list even if they were a dime a dozen.  Jackson studied with the late, great Bucky Pizzarelli, whom we lost to Covid in 2020 at 94.  Today, Jackson is recording, touring, and championing the instrument, which has an extra bass string that greatly increases the versatility of the guitar. 

Ron Jackson

For the packed, CD release event for Standards and My Songs, Jackson played the wonderful Django on February 25, a gorgeous venue that is something out of a bohemian 1950s Paris movie scene.  In another time, this might have been one of those smoked-filled rooms filled with young hipsters in berets and Van Dyke beards, with impressive collections of vinyl at home.  Today’s hipsters eschew the cigarettes, but the crowd is still peppered with young jazz fans who are, in that long-ago vernacular, hip to the scene, Daddy-O.  But the vinyl?  Jackson has them! 

The straightforward, simple title of the record is accurate.  In the first of two late sets, Jackson and his musicians played mainly standards along with several songs written by Jackson.  His first song both tonight and on the album, “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” (Elliot Lurie) was neither a standard nor a Jackson tune, but an early 70s pop tune.  Jackson approached the tune like a singer, playing the melody straight all the way through before moving to octave licks.  The electric organ on this sounded for all the world like the legendary Hammond B3.  In fact, the organ was a Hammond with B3 modeling. 

Kyle Koehler

An original Jackson tune, “From Dusk to Dawn,” was reminiscent of the Allman Brothers instrumental “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”  The drummer was the strong driver of this tune, with pulsating rhythm changes around a 4/4 beat. 

Jackson’s young daughter, Lucia, was a special guest.  Lucia is a very talented singer, dancer and model, and her two songs, both introduced in 1945, added greatly to the appeal tonight.  On “I Wish I Knew” (Harry Warren/Mack Gordon) Jackson comped a solo through the first chorus before Lucia joined.  She has a beautiful voice, great phrasing and is quite poised.  There was a trombone solo by guest Clark Gayton and a sizzling solo by Jackson.  The Jackson duo made a jazz waltz of “I Fall in Love too Easily” (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn), the short, bridge-less tune first made famous by Frank Sinatra in Anchors Aweigh.  Neither of these tunes appear on Standards and My Songs, making this a special treat.

Clark Gayton

The band closed out the set with Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooche,” a bebop tune named for Parker’s drug dealer, Emry “Moose the Mooche” Byrd.  It was the most “pure jazz” song of the set.

Ron Jackson’s album is a winner.  It’s available as a CD, of course, but he also had a limited number pressed on vinyl, which is one of the few growth areas in recorded music today.  It’s been the number one album on the college charts since it’s release, a fact that was celebrated with a cake mid-set.  Jackson and his band did the album fine justice live at The Django.  All of the personnel on the album played tonight aside from Brian Ho on the Hammond, with the excellent substitution of Kyle Koehler, who sported an appropriate hipster goatee and Trilby hat.

Ron Jackson

Standards and My Songs

Seven-string guitar:  Ron Jackson

Bass:  Ben Wolfe:

Drums: Willie Jones III

Special guests:

Vocalist: Lucia Jackson

Hammond organ: Kyle Koehler

Trombone: Clark Gayton

The Django

Downstairs at The Roxy Hotel

2 Sixth Avenue, NYC

Photos: Andrew Poretz