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Groove merchants

June 09, 2005|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

TENOR saxophonist Javon Jackson — like many other young jazz artists -- is on a quest to infuse his music with the sounds, the rhythms and the attitudes of his generation. His appearance Tuesday at the Jazz Bakery in a quartet that also included guitarist Mark Whitfield, bassist Kenny Davis and drummer Terreon Gully underscored that mission with a collection of music that included selections from his upcoming album, "Have You Heard."

Guitarist Whitfield shares Jackson's affection for funk grooves and hip-hop rhythms. But these former college roommates, both in their late 30s, explored those elements from very different directions.

When tunes such as "Summertime" and Charlie Parker's delightful "My Little Suede Shoes" were positioned over rhythms with a heavy backbeat, Jackson maintained his jazz articulation, spinning out solos employing a full lexicon of inventive ideas.

Whitfield, however, seemed more concerned with extracting flurries of notes and electronic sounds, repeatedly driven through a '60s-sounding wah-wah pedal. In the process, his improvisational talents, so apparent in his earlier years, virtually disappeared. On the one tune in which the groove rhythms were momentarily set aside -- a guitar and tenor saxophone rendering of "Body and Soul" -- Jackson played superbly, while Whitfield limited himself to unobtrusive chordal backings.

Pieces from the new album -- "In This Corner" and the title track, as well as "Have You Heard," from an earlier Jackson CD -- took both players, driven strongly by the backing of Davis and Gully, more deeply into a netherworld of rhythmically simplistic, pop-oriented patterns and sounds.

Somewhere along the way, too much of what they are as creative artists was left behind.


Javon Jackson

Where: The Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., L.A.

When: 8 and 9:30 p.m. today through Sunday

Price: $25

Info: (310) 271-9039

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