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Daniel Jackson Brings Jazz to La Mesa

Daniel Jackson says he’s in the bank when I call. In a hushed voice he asks me to call back in ten minutes. Twenty minutes later, and he’s walking:

“That’s a city bus passing, now a couple of dogs on chains. Hold on. I gotta cross the street. I don’t cross and talk at the same time.” With the exception of traffic noise, the phone goes silent. “There,” he says, “I’m good now.”

Many claim Jackson as San Diego’s preeminent straight-ahead jazz tenor saxist. Jackson has played professionally since 1958, touring with Ray Charles, Buddy Rich, Willie Bobo, and others. City council member Donna Frye proclaimed January 24th as Daniel Jackson week. For the uninitiated, here is a sample solo.

A year or so ago, when Jackson was the subject of a Reader musician interview feature, he dispelled a rumor that he'd been born in the backseat of a limousine:

“My mom told me that my father was a chauffeur. For a doctor. And that when I was ready to be delivered, he called the doctor and told him, and the doctor said, ‘Okay, bring your wife over to the clinic.’ Which was the Scripps clinic [in La Jolla]. Wasn’t a hospital yet. And it didn’t have any black people born in it. Not in 1937.”

For a sax player, Jackson kills it on piano: "A guy came up to me and said he'd never heard that style of piano playing before. I said that's because most people who play piano have had lessons." He's delighted at his joke, giggles his high-pitched laughter, which sounds musical.

But otherwise try as you might, you cannot get Jackson, who is somewhere in his middle 70s, to talk about music:

"I never know what I'm gonna play," he says, "until I'm finished playing it."

Jackson often speaks in intellectual swirls, answering questions with questions or philosophical platitudes. For example, when I ask if we can meet the following Tuesday, he stops me. "I don't know if I have next Tuesday, much less today." Or, "The only thing I know is that the minutes are different."

Jackson has mentored handfuls of local prominent jazzers in his time, both knowingly and unknowingly. I went to high school with child sax prodigy Hollis Gentry, and he knew who Jackson was and what he represented in the cultural cul-de-sac that is San Diego and often encouraged us to observe the master blowing at a long-gone jazz club on Market called the Crossroads. It's a Starbucks now.

"But it wasn't always a jazz club," says Jackson. Jackson knows the history of Black clubs in San Diego because he's lived much of it. It is precisely that issue — the passing of the years — that brings us in fact to today:

"I was thinking that because of the clock" — he places emphasis on the word clock — "that I should try to do something, so I decided to put on a concert. Dizzy's was homeless, so I went to La Mesa." Says he pitched Gentry McCrea at the McCrea Music Company and found a willing venue for his idea of a jazz show.

McCrea Music Company inhabits a large and aging former industrial building with an arched wood-beam ceiling that was at one time the original home of Drew Ford. Now a music store, the place has a stage for recitals and room enough for at least 100 folding chairs.

On Friday, Jackson will host an evening of jazz in which the performer's guest list is a moving target due to ever-changing commitments, but it will be stellar. It always is. Local jazz royalty always rolls out in support of the tenor craftsman.

Today Jackson and his life are in decent shape. Elegant, even wizened, he appears to have made it through a health scare, and he has 17 or more cats to take care of. We talk about the best place to buy reeds cheap and what manner of mouthpiece is right for my alto sax ("Get a Bundy. It's Selmer's second line. That'll be good") and about how much, and how little, has changed during his time in San Diego.

"I still have an old rotary telephone. Had it since 1947. Same number. Most people that know it are dead. It rings, and I wonder who the hell that could be?"

Dizzy's presents Daniel Jackson and Friends, Friday March 9, 8pm, $15, McCrea Music Company 8361 Allison, La Mesa, 91941 all ages

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Daniel Jackson says he’s in the bank when I call. In a hushed voice he asks me to call back in ten minutes. Twenty minutes later, and he’s walking:

“That’s a city bus passing, now a couple of dogs on chains. Hold on. I gotta cross the street. I don’t cross and talk at the same time.” With the exception of traffic noise, the phone goes silent. “There,” he says, “I’m good now.”

Many claim Jackson as San Diego’s preeminent straight-ahead jazz tenor saxist. Jackson has played professionally since 1958, touring with Ray Charles, Buddy Rich, Willie Bobo, and others. City council member Donna Frye proclaimed January 24th as Daniel Jackson week. For the uninitiated, here is a sample solo.

A year or so ago, when Jackson was the subject of a Reader musician interview feature, he dispelled a rumor that he'd been born in the backseat of a limousine:

“My mom told me that my father was a chauffeur. For a doctor. And that when I was ready to be delivered, he called the doctor and told him, and the doctor said, ‘Okay, bring your wife over to the clinic.’ Which was the Scripps clinic [in La Jolla]. Wasn’t a hospital yet. And it didn’t have any black people born in it. Not in 1937.”

For a sax player, Jackson kills it on piano: "A guy came up to me and said he'd never heard that style of piano playing before. I said that's because most people who play piano have had lessons." He's delighted at his joke, giggles his high-pitched laughter, which sounds musical.

But otherwise try as you might, you cannot get Jackson, who is somewhere in his middle 70s, to talk about music:

"I never know what I'm gonna play," he says, "until I'm finished playing it."

Jackson often speaks in intellectual swirls, answering questions with questions or philosophical platitudes. For example, when I ask if we can meet the following Tuesday, he stops me. "I don't know if I have next Tuesday, much less today." Or, "The only thing I know is that the minutes are different."

Jackson has mentored handfuls of local prominent jazzers in his time, both knowingly and unknowingly. I went to high school with child sax prodigy Hollis Gentry, and he knew who Jackson was and what he represented in the cultural cul-de-sac that is San Diego and often encouraged us to observe the master blowing at a long-gone jazz club on Market called the Crossroads. It's a Starbucks now.

"But it wasn't always a jazz club," says Jackson. Jackson knows the history of Black clubs in San Diego because he's lived much of it. It is precisely that issue — the passing of the years — that brings us in fact to today:

"I was thinking that because of the clock" — he places emphasis on the word clock — "that I should try to do something, so I decided to put on a concert. Dizzy's was homeless, so I went to La Mesa." Says he pitched Gentry McCrea at the McCrea Music Company and found a willing venue for his idea of a jazz show.

McCrea Music Company inhabits a large and aging former industrial building with an arched wood-beam ceiling that was at one time the original home of Drew Ford. Now a music store, the place has a stage for recitals and room enough for at least 100 folding chairs.

On Friday, Jackson will host an evening of jazz in which the performer's guest list is a moving target due to ever-changing commitments, but it will be stellar. It always is. Local jazz royalty always rolls out in support of the tenor craftsman.

Today Jackson and his life are in decent shape. Elegant, even wizened, he appears to have made it through a health scare, and he has 17 or more cats to take care of. We talk about the best place to buy reeds cheap and what manner of mouthpiece is right for my alto sax ("Get a Bundy. It's Selmer's second line. That'll be good") and about how much, and how little, has changed during his time in San Diego.

"I still have an old rotary telephone. Had it since 1947. Same number. Most people that know it are dead. It rings, and I wonder who the hell that could be?"

Dizzy's presents Daniel Jackson and Friends, Friday March 9, 8pm, $15, McCrea Music Company 8361 Allison, La Mesa, 91941 all ages

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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