D.D. JACKSON with BRAD MEHLDAU performing as part of the JVC Jazz Festival at Harbourfront Centre's du Maurier Theatre Centre (231 Queen's Quay West), Tuesday (June 19), 8 pm. $25. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNNN
the impressive volume of work Ottawa pianist D.D. Jackson has released in his relatively brief career shows him to be not merely an exceptional technician but also a true player who's down for whatever.He's just as comfortable breezing through the classical repertoire as he is getting low-down with baritone sax boss Hamiet Bluiett and percussionist Kahil El'Zabar on a spiritually funky session like the one recently documented on the Calling (Justin Time) album.
So when the invitation came to perform solo opposite his jazz piano contemporary Brad Mehldau for the JVC Jazz Festival's Creation Dream program, Jackson was game for that, too.
The pairing of a blues-informed feel player like Jackson with a Bill Evans-schooled tactician like Mehldau -- whose idea of getting loose is performing with his top shirt button undone -- should make for an intriguing contrast.
"Because our styles are so different," says Jackson over the phone from Los Angeles, "I kinda wish we'd be able to try some piano duos. Although I agree that I probably come more out of a blues and gospel thing than Mehldau, I think we share a classical sensibility, which is why I think it would be a lot of fun to play together.
"I find it really educational to collaborate in a duo setting, where you can absorb the approach that someone else is taking while working to find a middle ground.
"Actually, I was thinking of recording a whole series of duo albums with pianists I admire -- Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Michel Camillo, Uri Caine, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Anthony Milne and Chucho Valdes, to name a few -- but it would've been a logistical nightmare to pull off and then try to tour. Just trying to round up two pianos each night would be hard enough."
Difficult, perhaps, but it's nothing compared to the challenge of solo performance, which Jackson now feels mature enough to undertake.
"I regard performing solo as the ultimate challenge, really. When you're up there by yourself, there's no one around to interact with and feed off. You have to sustain a mood and flow all alone.
"While it's a creatively liberating situation, it requires a certain level of physical and emotional endurance to keep things interesting for the course of a concert.
"The last time I did a solo show in Toronto, it was opening for an electric fusion group. Here I was trying to introduce my second piece and people were already shouting, "Bring on John McLaughlin!' I imagine it'll be a more sympathetic crowd this time, but it'll still be a challenge."