The Air Train Jazz Festival continued this Thursday with Ed Jackson’s Quintet. The tables at the bar were filled with lovers of music and a few regulars who have been turning out to enjoy the sounds of the Jazz Festival every Thursday evening. Ed Jackson is a veteran of the Jazz Festival, having played the Saxophone with other ensembles previously for the even. He leads his own quintet and jazz lounge, The Jackson Room, and has received the Selmer Company Award for Outstanding Saxophonist. When you hear him play, you understand how he got that award. Our World on Sutphin was able to get an interview with him during the festival.
Ed Jackson works his Saxophone with a skill he’s cultivated for nearly forty years. Being born right here in Jamaica, Queens, He recalls sitting on the steps of a two family home, where there was a porch, and on it: a piano. His brother played the bass and often invited friends home; gifted musicians like pianist Donald Blackman and composer Weldon Irvine were performing in his presence. Ed Jackson says, “I was just sitting there, trying to figure out where I fit in as this eleven year-old kid. At that time James Brown used to say on his records: “Macio play your horn!” Macio was a Sax player. I realized they didn’t have a sax player, so that was my calling.” From there, he was sitting in with his brother, and they played jazz tunes. Ed would listen to his brother play LP records by Stanley Turpentine, Charlie Parker, and Train.
His road to music was really paved in his teenage years. Every summer in his youth, his parents sent him to sports camp for two months. Athletics wasn’t for Ed—he knew music was his passion. Finally, one summer he felt confident and declared to his parents that he wasn’t going back to sports camp. “They said: Well, where are you going to go?” Ed Jackson reflects, “This is what changed my life. I told them, how about a music camp?” His parents approached him with a brochure for “A Lighthouse Art and Music Camp”. From there he was able to get away for a couple of months with great jazz teachers. Ed Jackson describes the impact music camp had on him explaining, “It turned my whole life around, because I really started to understand more about the jazz language.” He returned to the camp until graduating school and attending the New England Conservatory of Music with a Degree in Music. With all the experience he gained from his schooling, he was prepared when opportunity struck. Ed’s brother was playing with the established musician, Roy Haynes. Roy ended up asking Ed Jackson to rehearse with his band, and Ed played numerous events with the band for two years.
Many young musicians are trying to start their freelance career playing gigs and making music with friends. Ed Jackson has some suggestions for establishing yourself as a freelance artist. First, he suggests constantly putting yourself in situations where you get to play your music, even if it doesn’t pay—especially in the jazz genre. The chances of a jazz musician making a decent salary can be very slim. It’s crucial to not allow the lack of reward to discourage you from putting your talent out there. By being in the right environment, your biggest reward is in the networking opportunities. Second, it can be rough to freelance without steady income, so it’s wise to have another profession on the side. Find a niche that works for yourself and your schedule. For Ed, it’s a tax practice. He works his hardest during the spring tax season, and then he’s free to play all the jazz he likes. Taxes aren’t for everyone though, so discover options that best suit your strengths.
If you’re looking to be blown away by a stellar Saxophone solo, Ed Jackson can be spotted at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar on the first Saturday of each month. On the last Saturday of the month, he plays at his very own venue, the Jackson Room in St. Albans. Anyone can go online to make a reservation. Don’t forget to catch the next Air Train Jazz Festival on Thursday, October 27th for another evening of smooth listening.
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