JazzWeek 2011 To Honor Eric Jackson

April 26, 2011

BOSTON -- For the fifth straight year, the Boston jazz community will come together to celebrate Jazz Week. Organized by JazzBoston, more than 200 jazz concerts and events will take place throughout Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville between April 29 and May 8.

The centerpiece of Jazz Week '11 is “Eric in Two Evenings,” a two-part stage and screen salute to Eric Jackson, who celebrates the 30th anniversary of his nightly jazz program on 89.7 WGBH.

Jackson grew up with his father listening to jazz, but his obsession really sprouted during his college years at Boston University. Jackson recalls that he used to walk around everywhere holding John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."

"In those days, in about the first five minutes of meeting you, I'd hand you 'A Love Supreme'... 'can you play this please?' I remember being amazed that these four men (Coltrane, double bassist Jimmy Garrision, drummer Elvin Jones, and pianist McCoy Tyner) were making this music alone. I remember there was a word I used to describe it... and that word is majestic."

The other force in Jackson's early love of jazz music was Miles Davis, in particular the quintet he led with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. 

"Miles was mixing the music differently. It's an evolution in the music because of what Miles is doing with drummer Tony Williams. Tony is a much more interactive part of the music," says Jackson.

Jackson's natural on-air talent caught the attention WGBH, who heard him on local stations like Boston University's WTBU, Harvard's WIOD, and WBCN. He was brought to WGBH to replace host Alfred B. Spellman, who left to take a job at the National Endowment for the Arts. 

"I thought I was in way over my head here at WGBH, but I didn't want to turn down the job," says Jackson. 

Jackson says that much of his radio show is based on the book "The Music of Black Americans" by Eileen Southern, which has subsequently become the textbook for a class Jackson teaches at Northeastern Universtiy.

After thirty years, Jackson stills describes himself as a "gee-wiz kid."

"I'm not the kind of person who wants to go on vacation by himself. It would be no fun to look at a beautiful lake or painting, and not be able to turn to someone and say, 'Did you see that?' Radio is the perfect job for a gee-wiz kid like me."

Looking at the jazz landscape today, Jackson feels that altough it fluctuates, the jazz scene is still very strong. 

"Boston has been a strong jazz center since its earliest days. As early as 1918, jazz was being played in Boston. A lot of the great musicians were Bostonians."

Jackson also warns against the limits that modern technology places on exposure to new music. 

"iPods are part of our enemy. The expression is, 'garbage in, garbage out.' If you're not putting any jazz into your iPod, you're not getting out. How are you going to get any exposure to the music?"

About the overall future of the music, Jackson says, "I think you have to look at it two different ways. If you're looking at the economics, they're pretty dismal. If you're looking at the music, I don't see any end to the amount of people who want to play it. So I think this music is still going to be around. If people are going to be able to make a decent living playing it is what's under question."

JazzWeek 2011

For a complete schedule of Jazz Week 2011 events, visit jazzboston.org.

“For Eric, Evening I”
is an all-star jazz jam at Scullers Jazz Club on Monday, May 2, presented by JazzBoston and Scullers and produced by Fred Taylor, that will include, among many others, Walter Beasley, Grace Kelly, Terri Lyne Carrington, Cecil McBee, Rebecca Parris, Phil Wilson, Bill Pierce, George Garzone, Bob Moses, Dominique Eade, Donal Fox, and Laszlo Gardony.

“For Eric, Evening II” is a night of rarely seen videos of jazz greats selected by Jackson and screened at the Regent Theatre, Arlington Center, on Friday, May 6. The videos come from the collection of jazz historian Hal Miller, owner of the world's largest collection of rare jazz film and video. Among Jackson’s picks will be clips of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Herbie Hancock, Duke Ellington, Wes Montgomery, Pharoah Sanders and Sonny Rollins. A reception with Jackson and Miller will precede the screening.

Eric Jackson and JazzBoston Advisory Board member Dayla Arabella Santurri talk about the Jazz Week line-up on BNN News.


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