Time out with Daniel Jackson
San Diego sax legend teams up with Barbara Dennerlein tonight at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion for some organ combo jazz
“What are you doin’ Monday?”
Daniel Jackson, the tenor sax man phoned over the weekend to talk about a special gig that in fact happens to be tonight.
“I’m sitting in with Barbara Dennerlein, man. In Balboa Park. She’s gonna play that big organ.”
“And you’re gonna play sax?” I ask.
“Yeah.” Then comes the Daniel Jackson pause, which he does when I’m slow to catch on.
“I’m inviting you. It’s gonna be Jimmy Smith. Jack McDuff, man, but big.”
He cackles, and even that sounds musical.
In the spirit of full disclosure, Daniel Jackson is something of a music mentor to me (I too play tenor sax) but with this caveat: you don’t go to Daniel Jackson to ask what time it is unless you want to learn how to build a clock.
For example, once, I asked him to help me develop stronger solo lines and better jazz ideas in general.
“Go to a black funeral,” was his answer.
“Why a black funeral?”
The Daniel Jackson pause. Then, when he was good and ready, he said this: “Because everything happens at a black funeral.”
It was a fair question, by the way, asking if Jacjson was playing his venerable Selmer horn at tonight’s date because for a saxist, he kills it on piano.
“I never had a piano lesson in my life,” he once told me. He is self-taught, in other words. “Wasn’t anybody around to teach me how to play.”
But as good as his piano playing may be, it was the tenor sax playing got Jackson hooked up with Wes Montgomery, Ray Charles, Buddy Rich, Willie Bobo and a host of other first call national touring acts during the lifespan of his career. In January 2010, a San Diego City Council member officially declared the week of January 24 to be Daniel Jackson Week.
A word now on Barbara Dennerlein: she’s a German jazz and crossover artist, born in 1964, and specializes in the playing of swing, bebop, blues, and hard bop on the Hammond B3. Tonight’s date with the big monster otherwise known as the Spreckels pipe organ should be a blast and not unfamiliar territory; Dennerlein began fooling around with pipe and church organs a couple of decades ago.
Did I take Jackson’s cryptic advice regarding the learning of better solo lines? Yes. The answer would be yes. I attended many such funerals, uninvited as it were, and I sat in back and I engaged the sound of mourning, the cadence of the preaching.
Mr. Jackson, as most always, was right as rain: life teaches us how to make music.
Barbara Dennerlein with special guest Daniel Jackson: Monday July 29 (tonight) Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Balboa Park (619) 702-8138 7:30pm, free, all ages.