Eric Jackson's Radio Legacy
Over the last three decades, I have been involved in researching and sharing knowledge on musicians’ thoughts, feelings, views and beliefs on and about what they do and why they do it. Some of my work has focused specifically on African American musicians as composers, arrangers and performers ‘of and in’ the creative improvisational music commonly known as jazz. The scope of my research work has also included examination the roles of jazz radio hosts in enlightening, informing and educating the general listening audience to the aesthetics and creative principles of jazz musicians and the music they compose and perform. As a result of my research in the area, I have developed great respect and appreciation for Eric Jackson. Known as the “Dean of Boston Jazz Radio”, Eric has created an outstanding legacy of commitment to the music and the musicians. Because of his deep knowledge of the music and his respectful and sincere attitude towards the musicians, Eric has been able to establish trusting relationships with these professionals. These relationships have resulted in interviews with musicians that are relaxed, informative, insightful, and provide an intimate and unique record of the accounts of master musicians in their own words.
For this research project, I was provided access to audio recordings of a number of live interviews conducted by Eric Jackson on his WGBH show, “Eric In the Evening”. All the interviews were recorded in the 1980’s and 1990’s and feature some of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, many of whom have been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts as Jazz Masters. Live commentary between musicians and Eric Jackson give insight into the world of these musicians. These insights range from autobiographical information to theoretical, compositional and repertoire considerations, and from personal preferences to significant historical commentary about the music business. The interviews serve to illustrate the depth of knowledge and understanding that Eric Jackson as presenter and archivist has of the music and his personal relationships with the musicians. A key to the importance of what is expressed in the interviews has to do with Eric’s strong personal and emotional connection with each artist and their collective appreciation and respect for Jackson’s stature as a programmer, historian of the music, and member of the community.
Method and Selection
Over a six month period I spent time listening to each interview, taking notes on the various topics and subjects of discussion. I then organized and refined the content, ultimately selecting five interviews for sharing with the public via the WGBH homepage. The selected interviews are Alan Dawson, Roy Haynes, Ahmad Jamal, Sheila Jordan and Arthur Taylor Acknowledged masters in their own right, each of the interviews provides intriguing reflections on their biographies, views, opinions, thoughts and endeavors. I selected the interviews based on the knowledge, history and insights each provides that will be of interest to the WGBH listening and reading audience. Some themes and topics discussed in the interviews include: “Good and bad music," Teaching Tony Williams, The joy of singing, Memories of “Bird” and “Prez," the importance of dancers in jazz drum performance history, and the brilliance of Papa Joe Jones. It is my hope that through reading and hearing the interviews, one will benefit from the knowledge of five jazz master musicians and one masterful jazz radio host.
Brown is a professional musician (saxophonist, composer, & arranger), teacher, ethnomusicologist and specialist in multicultural education. He has performed with many outstanding artists including Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, George Russell, Bill Barron, Yusef Lateef, Alan Dawson and Ed Blackwell. An associate professor of African American Studies and Music at Northeastern University/Boston, Brown is co-director of the Afro-Caribbean Music Research Project. He is a Ford Foundation Fellow & is currently involved in exposing & educating students to African retentions in 21st century Caribbean cultures. From 1996 to 2002, he served as senior ethnomusicologist and principal cultural historian to the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, MO, the first national jazz museum in the nation and recently served in an advisory capacity for the National Museum of African American Music proposed for Nashville, TN.
Brown is also co-founder & producer of Boston’s annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert (friendsofjcmc.org). Established in 1977, this annual performance tribute to John Coltrane’s musical and spiritual legacy is the oldest event of its kind in the world. He has received Distinguished Scholar awards from the University of Massachusetts/Boston and the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute at Northeastern University. He is principal contributor to the book Kansas City…And All That’s Jazz, a history of the Kansas City jazz legacy published by Andrews McMeel in 1999. Brown’s recent publications are John Coltrane and Black America’s Quest for Freedom: Spirituality and the Music, released by Oxford University Press in August 2010 and Boston’s Jazz Legend: The Al Vega Story, a self-published work released in June 2011.