“Jazz Monthly Feature Interview” Eldredge Jackson
Interview By Baldwin "Smitty" Smith
Jazz Monthly: My next guest is the perfect example of the effulgence of great music. He is a young artist with a phat sax sound. He has a wonderful new project, it is called Listening Pleasure, and you must hear this great project. He is the pride of Tulsa, Oklahoma, he is a great friend of Wayman Tisdale, and wait until you hear these two cats together on this record. It is something to hear and feel. Please welcome this uninhibited sax player Mr. Eldredge Jackson. Eldredge, how ya doin’, my friend?
Eldredge Jackson (EJ): Oh, just great, man. How are you doing, man?
Jazz Monthly: I’m peaceful, thank you. Hey, and I’m loving this record, man, wow. This is your debut album and when I hear a debut album this good, I always say “What took him so long? He should’ve had four of these out. We love this.” (Both laugh.)
EJ: Oh, well, thank you, man. Thanks so much for the compliment. We’re very pleased with this being the debut project and just having such a wonderful producer like Wayman Tisdale, who has been in the industry. I was very fortunate to be able to have him working with me as a close friend and as a confidant, and so this project, man, I’m just blown away myself.
Jazz Monthly: Yes, and my sentiments exactly because, Wayman is a very giving person, he’s talented on all levels, and I always love it when a great artist gives something back and puts a fresh new sound out there as yourself, and let’s give him such props for what he has done for the industry and for so many artists around the country.
EJ: Absolutely, absolutely. I just had a good chance to watch him develop being in the same town, transitioning from the great sports figure to the musical genius that he has become, and it’s been great to just watch that transpire.
Jazz Monthly: Absolutely, and he’s never forgotten where he came from.
Jazz Monthly: He’s always had a wonderful personality, and how do you beat that smile? (Both laugh.)
EJ: That’s his trademark. If you know Wayman, that smile comes along with it, man. That’s part of Wayman.
Jazz Monthly: True that.. Well, talk to me about your early days in Oklahoma because you’re Central America.
Jazz Monthly: And when we think about jazz, we think about the South and then some transitioning to some of the larger metropolitan areas around the country, and then for this great record to come out of Central America, just talk about how you developed your love for music period and jazz especially.
EJ: Well, actually, my story is unique in and of itself in that at the age of four, at the time I was living in New Orleans, Louisiana, which is my native state. I was born in New Orleans but we transitioned to Oklahoma when I had just turned five—in fact, on my fifth birthday—but at the age of four I remember going to a musical church convention and there was a saxophonist that was hailed the king of gospel saxophone by the name of Vernard Johnson, and I remember at four years old pointing to the stage and telling my mom that I’m gonna be like that guy someday, and that’s really how I even had my first experience of knowing that I wanted to play saxophone—and I play several other instruments, but the saxophone is really my true love.
Once I had a chance to come to Oklahoma, my father had pastored a number of years, and that’s kind of the relationship even with Wayman and I. Wayman’s father, he was the pastor of a great congregation, and so my father and Wayman’s father being in the same church circle, we had that church background, and playing in church, that’s kind of where I developed my style. Even though it’s categorized as smooth jazz, I say it’s a musical gumbo of smooth jazz, gospel and traditional jazz, and when you put those three combinations together, I think that’s where it gets its sound from, so it’s kind of unique in a way because it’s smooth jazz but I call it jazz with an edge, so that’s pretty much where I developed my style.
Jazz Monthly: Well, thank you for taking some New Orleans to Oklahoma. Talk about your first saxophone. I mean, here you saw this great sax player, but talk about when you got your first sax and what that experience was like.
EJ: Oh, man, I love to tell this story because even from age four I knew that I wanted to play saxophone, but at the elementary school that I attended you had to wait until the sixth grade in order to get into the school band, so coming from a musical background, I started out playing piano and had private lessons until I could get into sixth grade, but once I got into sixth grade, I was so excited, my father took me to the music store and of course we got my first saxophone, which at that time was the beginner’s instrument. Right when I had that first experience, I knew, man, this is it, I’m onto something, I’m gonna keep this going.
Jazz Monthly: All right, now, let me ask you. If your dad at that point in time had said “Son, how about a brand new bicycle or a saxophone?”
EJ: It wouldn’t have even been a question. It would’ve been a matter of which saxophone, not which bicycle. The saxophone has always been love.
Jazz Monthly: Well, that’s very cool, man. And when you’ve got that kind of love at that age and it’s a part of you, great things are gonna happen because it’s a part of who you are and it’s your identity.
Jazz Monthly: And to continue that love for music and for the instrument speaks very well with this record.
EJ: Oh, well, thank you, thank you so much, man.
Jazz Monthly: Absolutely. Now I gotta tell you, man, I was trying to pick a favorite track here because I always do that. It’s like okay, where’s my repeat song? And I’ve got like three. I couldn’t pick one. And it’s a great record to just hit random and let it play, but I love the title track because I think that’s when you hear Eldredge Jackson stretch out a little bit.
Jazz Monthly: And I love that full expression of who you are and what you’re feeling at the time with the music.
EJ: Yeah, actually that was one where I wrote that song many years ago and then once we started working on the project, I said “Wayman, I want you to listen to this and let me know what you think,” and once he had a chance to hear it, at that point he said “Man, we’ve got to put this on this project, man. That’s you.” And for him to say “This is who you are, this needs to come out,” then I really felt good about it.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, well, I’ve got to echo his sentiments because that’s what I felt, that this is Eldredge Jackson’s introduction, if you would.
EJ: Sure, sure.
Jazz Monthly: “This is who I am.” But I do like the first track too, “I Like That.” That’s a nice opening to this project, it really is.
EJ: Yeah, that’s the single that’s being released and the way that came about was probably about 10 o’clock one evening, I’m at home just kind of resting and thinking about the day, and I get a call from Wayman Tisdale saying “Man, you’ve got to come over” and here I’m like “Wow, 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock, okay, Wayman, let’s see what you got,” you know? So he pops the track in and we’re listening to it and right off the top, man, he says “Oh, what do you think?” And I kept saying “Man, I like that, I like that,” and so that’s kind of where it got its title from.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, it’s a sweet track. And speaking of time of day, “Sunday Morning at 10 A.M.,” you’ve got to tell me about “Sunday Morning at 10 A.M.” because that’s one of my favorite times of the week and the day.
EJ: Yeah, well, here again, it goes back to being the son of a minister as it were. My father pastored for a good 20 plus years and so every Sunday morning it wasn’t a question of if you were going to church but making sure you’re getting up in time enough to go, and with that church background, Sunday morning at 10 a.m., that was pretty much the title that I gave it just going back to my gospel roots, and anywhere in the U.S., whether it’s 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock, somewhere Sunday morning a church service is gonna be going on, so that’s kind of where we got that concept from.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, and 10 a.m. is my reflective time.
Jazz Monthly: And so I reflect on the past week and then I’m looking to what’s happening the coming week, so it’s my reflective time.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, it’s a special time. And “Get With It,” whoo! I’m loving “Get With It.” I love the title and the track. (Both laugh.)
EJ: Well, man, I have to say that “Get With It,” out of all the tracks that we play live, I get more feedback from the crowd, and we get a joy playing it because that’s the song that I typically go and work the crowd and, man, the female population, man, they just really love it. That’s the signature concert song right there, “Get With It.”
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, you gotta have one of those too and, man, you’ve got to have one to work the crowd. (Both laugh.) That is a sweet track. And you did some fantastic covers, “Voyage to Atlantis,” the Isley song.
Jazz Monthly: And I love your composition of that, and I love the Lionel Richie song “Hello.” Great choice!
EJ: “Hello,” yeah.
Jazz Monthly: You know, I’m trying to think if a sax player’s ever done that and I don’t recall one, so I thought that was purely unique and great.
EJ: Yeah, I don’t remember it being covered and it just so happened that I was just driving one day and the song came on the radio and it just brought back memories of the 80s when that song came out and I thought, wow, this is one that we can put our hands on it and see what happens. So far it’s been great, man.
Jazz Monthly: Yeah, fantastic. You made such a great selection of tracks and I’m sure you had a ton to work with because I know Wayman.
Jazz Monthly: I’m sure he threw some tracks at you and I’m sure you threw some at him, but I think between the two of you, you really came up with some fantastic stuff. And you’ve gotta talk to me about Preston Glass and what he did and what he contributed to this great project because it’s fantastic.
EJ: Oh, sure. Preston Glass, I mean, that name is one of the top producer/songwriters that’s in the industry even today, man. From the likes of Aretha Franklin to Kenny G, George Benson, Earth, Wind & Fire, I mean, the list goes on and on, and being able to have him on this project, I was blown away when I found out that he was definitely interested, so he actually co-produced the “Hello” track and then we did a remake of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” and so the remix track was produced by Preston and so just having him to be a part of it, man, was just definitely a blessing.
Jazz Monthly: : Yes indeed, man, and he really rocked it with these two. I mean, these are two great covers that he really put a very, very funky spin on which I love.
EJ: Yeah, so it’s been an honor.
Jazz Monthly: And what I felt here was he did this with you in mind because he could’ve done this a million different ways.
Jazz Monthly: And only Preston Glass can do that, but he really did this with you in mind, which I think is very cool when a producer can do something like that.
EJ: Yeah, absolutely, man, and having had a chance to listen to some of the project himself, he at least had a chance to get my sound and live with that for a while, so when it came time for him to produce the two tracks, he knew exactly what was going to be a good fit for us and our style, so I was very pleased that he was able to put that much time into it and the end result are the two tracks that we’re definitely getting a positive response on.
Jazz Monthly: Absolutely, so props to him, man. And I love the artwork. Wow, this is a great package. I mean, the music we know is there.
Jazz Monthly: But the artwork is fantastic. I love the artwork on the disc itself. That’s some sweet designing. Whoever did that is just sweet.
EJ: Oh sure, well, thank you, thank you. Glad you like it.
Jazz Monthly: This is a very inviting package to really dig into and once you’re there, you know you’ve got something. It’s really cool. So talk to me about what you’re up to now. What’s happening?
EJ: Well, we just finished a show in Dallas at the Brooklyn Jazz Café promoting the national release of the Listening Pleasure CD, and then we’re gonna be in the Houston area November 1st at the Red Cat Jazz Café and so we’re looking forward to that show, and we’re doing a show in Oklahoma City, having a concert there, so we’re basically tapping into the other markets and just getting the CD out and having a chance to promote it, man, so we’re excited about what’s going on. We just came off of the Soul Food tour with Peabo Bryson and The Whispers, and so we had a chance to even kick off earlier this summer with the project, so it’s been a great year for us.
Jazz Monthly: Wow, man, so you’re a busy guy, the record is out, now how can people get the record?
EJ: Well, what they can do is actually check their local retail stores there and then they can always go online to my Web site, www.eldredgejackson.com, and that would give them more information on how to obtain a copy of the CD, and I would love for the listeners to reply via e-mail and let me know their thoughts, and we look forward to everyone enjoying the CD.
Jazz Monthly: All right, very cool. Well, Eldredge, big ups to you. I really love what you’ve done with this great project and I certainly look forward to the next one because this is the kind of record that makes you look forward to the next project. It’s that good, my friend.
EJ: Hey, well, thank you so much and it’s been an honor having the chance to visit with you.
Jazz Monthly: All right, we’ve been talking with Eldredge Jackson. His great new record is called Listening Pleasure and trust me, it is a very fitting title because there are just some fantastic tracks here that will certainly lend themselves to your listening pleasure. Eldredge, thanks again, my friend, and all the best to you with this great record and your career, my friend.
EJ: Thank you again. Thank you so much.
Baldwin “Smitty” Smith
For More Information Visit www.eldredgejackson.com
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