The D.D. Jackson Trio, (Jackson, piano, John Geggie, double bass, Victor Jones, drums) rocked the Montréal Bistro for two nights (June 28, 29) as part of the Toronto International Festival, with renditions “as-good-as-it-gets.” I was on hand for the opening set Saturday. My only regret was a 6:00 a.m. Sunday wakeup call which prevented me from savouring the rest of the night.
“The Welcoming” set the tone with a thrust and pull energy that would have thrown many other performers of the rails. Jackson’s unstoppable dynamism lifted the music way beyond the page and very nearly sent him up and over the keyboard—stand-up pianist extraordinaire.
I believe the title of the second chart was “But With Love”, but the noise-level of the enthusiastic SRO crowd made it difficult to catch all of the intro. No matter—it included a wonderful combination of unison lines, subtle and oh-so-smooth brush work from Jones (who never let things go too far a-field!) and a haunting ritornello, bass-line—a kind of “homage à la baroque”—that flitted in and out. If Jackson’s excursions on the well-used Yamaha were sometimes more metallic than lyrical, no one seemed to care—we rocked on.
Jackson’s newest CD (Sigame—see link below) provided much of the set’s material including “Le Shuffle.” It was so appropriate to see Oscar Peterson’s photo in the same frame as the band—for the introduction (particularly Jackson’s left hand) reminded us all of the master; but then the fire was lit with an incredible barrage of cascading notes that were knocked out of the willing instrument by fingers so flat that they’d never pass a Toronto Conservatory examination—thank goodness!
“Waltz for Mr. Hicks”—with its whimsical start and faint echoes of Michel Legrand—became a tasty demonstration of ensemble excellence. Knowing that gigs like this are never over-rehearsed, it was a further credit to Jones and Geggie that they supported and followed Jackson as if they’d been together for decades—a musical hide-and-seek.
The classical influence of Schumann and Chopin permeated the opening of “Prologue,” where Geggie’s bow-work added yet another dimension to the colour of the night. His extended solo—so in tune, in time and thoughtful—proves once more that Geggie is Canada’s most versatile bassist.
The sidemen were dismissed for Jackson’s solo offering: “Tribal.” As was the case throughout the set but most noticeable seul, the music seemed full of anger and occasionally rage; the considerable technical skills and compelling musical ideas were more the servant of therapy than art. Even the coda’s ragtime, near boogie-woogie finish had an air of despair. I kept waiting for an introspective, lyrical statement to balance the rest, but not yet; hopefully it will come.
We were invited to offer titles for “Warped”: how ‘bout “Skins Ahoy” or “Deadly Beat,” for here was a chance for Jones to reveal his artistry and no one was disappointed as he provided that rhythmical bookends to this chart that left us breathless and wanting more. Employing every piece of his kit, he guided his colleagues using intelligence and creativity rather than volume and bombast. Whatever it’s finally called, I can’t wait for an encore!
“Summer” (also on the new CD) was the last offering I would get to hear. It provided a fitting conclusion to this current survey of the state of D.D. Finally, we were able to relax and let the music, rather than inner turmoil, lead us into a thoughtful tableau of the oppressive heat and humidity that lay in wait just outside the door. This ballad-lite, even with its compelling textbook modulation, left everyone present refreshed and glad to be in the room with such able practitioners of the art that can never come across the same way twice.
Let’s hope there will be many other occasions for this particular threesome to reunite! JWR