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Brooklyn 6 And 7 String Jazz Guitar Master Ron Jackson Breathes New Life Into Acoustic Guitar Music With His New Release Akustik InventYours
Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association best describes Jackson's 7th recording as a leader in his liner notes below:
Akustik InventYours is Ron Jackson's welcome and surprising new recording. Self-described as an "urban jazz guitarist" and best known for wielding his electric ax in straightahead, funky r&b/soul/bop and pop settings, Ron now presents a program of beguiling solo and self-accompanied duets on six-string steel and classical (nylon-string) instruments. With advanced finger-picking skills and broadly-based musical sensibility, he ushers listeners through 14 original compositions and one unique arrangement giving personal twists to world-spanning musical traditions. The duets, of course, are overdubbed, but otherwise the music is captured as it was created, both sound and substance totally clear and cohesive.
"People put you in a category, so nobody knows me for this, but I started playing acoustic guitar when I was 11," says this veteran jazzman, "and I've been playing finger-style since I was in college. I've always liked Chet Atkins" - the Nashville guitar star and producer - "and Andres Segovia and Jimmy Page when he played acoustic with Led Zeppelin. I've wanted to do an acoustic album for 20 years. Here it is!"
Here indeed: Songs referencing country blues, roots Americana, reggae, calypso, Latin, Brazilian and Africa tropes, enriched by Ron's direct, warm sensibility. From the bright harmonic sweeps that open the 12-bar "Bucket Blues" (performed on a Martin guitar he was keeping for a student) through the end-of-day satisfactions that cycle through "Jamaican Sunset," Jackson projects calm pleasures and tender reflections.
In "Your Eyes" he turns thoughts of his daughter Lucia into a melodic meditation on years past, during which a father's watched his child grow. "Excerpt of Tina Number III," part of a suite Ron dedicates to his first wife, seems to be a story of travel, too, as he switches between minor and major scales, dramatically stark strums and precisely articulated 16th note runs. "Park Slope," through-composed, is rather dark, considering it's inspired by a Brooklyn neighborhood of streets lined with trees and brownstones, often filled with young families. "Train to Groningen" continues the mood, which might be likened to saudade - the Brazilian concept of bittersweet reminiscence. Hear how clean Ron's attack is, and how he lets his notes ring as they trail off. Such music, unforced yet memorable, prompts a listener's own daydreams. "Australian Love Affair" also conveys the quality of memories.
But looking back while moving forward may come naturally to Jackson, who was born in the Philippines to a U.S. military family, and lived a relatively transient life into his high school years, when his parents settled in Harvard, Massachusetts (a little less than 50 miles northwest of Boston). Having already embraced music as his passion, Ron got into such noted guitar slingers of the day as Yes's Steve Howe, Michael Hedges, Pat Metheny (Watercolors was among Ron's favorites) and genre-confounding Leo Kottke.
At age 18 Jackson entered Berklee College of Music - "I got my butt kicked there," he laughs, knowing the experience raised his game. Later, while married to bassist Nicki Parrott, he sat in with such greats as Les Paul and Australian Tommy Emmanuel, with whom she was gigging. Ron also became enamored with the Paco de Lucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin trio - "They blew me away." Those heroes and Bucky Pizzarelli, Ron's most recent teacher, encouraged him to tackle the challenges of a self-produced solo project.
"It was a lot of work," he acknowledges. "I engineered and edited everything myself. I used microphones only on the guitars. Nothing is recorded directly to the board. I used four different kinds of guitars: the Martin, two Spanish-made nylon-string guitars by Aria, one with a built in pick-up, and my custom-made steel -string by Flyde, in England. That's what you hear on the steel-string tracks, except 'Bucket Blues,' which is the Martin."
Whichever instrument Ron uses, his approach, tone, pace and touch are distinctive. The mellowness of "Old Dusty Road," the quiet ache of "Too Late," the unhurried lyricism of "Londonderry Air," the details that build to subtly beautiful performances of "In My Dreams," "Barrington Tops" and "Ernestina" are all of a piece. "A Calypso Party" -- with overdubbed melody line, rhythmic chords and percussive tapping plus a mid-tune break with six guitar overdubs into something like Congolese soukous identifiably springs from the hands of the same man who spins the spritely "Jamaican Sunset."
Not just hands - entire persona. Ron emerges here as an artist who has composed and plays tunes weaving imagination, discipline, craft and expressiveness into a simply lovely whole. He's not falsely modest about what he's accomplished. He says, "I have six or seven records out of my own, but this is my favorite. I'm really happy about everything I did. It came out great."
Don't take his word for it - listen. You'll be able to easily relate to what he's done. The music is so nicely measured, intimately affable and captivating you might think for a moment that you yourself have made it. That's the extraordinary gift guitarist Ron Jackson offers. Sit down, unplug, let Akustik Inventyours spark unexpected auditory adventures."