Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Jackson, Anthony (Claiborne)
Bassist Anthony Jackson's comprehensive performance style includes traditional rhythmic accompaniment and expressive solo passages, which sound equally at home in straight-ahead jazz, fusion, pop and rhythm and blues. Jackson pioneered the use of a six-string electric bass which expanded the instrument's expressive range, and has become popular with players such as John Patitucci.
Anthony Claiborne Jackson was born on June 23, 1952 in New York City. Jackson’s initial musical education came as a young boy on the piano. He also took guitar lessons where he learned folk music. As a teenager, Jackson began to teach himself the bass guitar, with his primary influences being Motown session musician James Jamerson and Jack Casady, the bassist for the rock band Jefferson Airplane. Anthony particularly enjoyed Casady’s performance on the band's 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow.
At the age of seventeen, Jackson began to perform and record soul and rhythm and blues music professionally. After becoming a member of rhythm and blues singer Billy Paul’s group, Anthony began to do session work with songwriter/production team Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff’s Philadelphia International Records. In the fall of 1973, Jackson performed for Gamble and Huff on the song “For the Love of Money,” which became a hit for the group The O’Jays the following spring. The song was nominated for the Grammy Award for "Best R&B Vocal Performance – Duo, Group or Chorus” in 1975.
1973 also saw Jackson performing with pianist Horace Silver.)The following year, Anthony performed with drummer Buddy Rich and recorded the album Very Live at Buddy’s Place, a live album recorded at Rich’s club in New York City. On the album, Jackson plays alongside Mike Abene, pianist Kenny Barron, flutist and alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune, tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico and guitarist Jack Wilkins.
Jackson’s talents are best expressed on the song “Cardin Blue.” Jackson firmly anchors the song's blues form of the song by adhering to the root motion of the chord at hand, allowing Barron to explore the musical terrain a bit more. During his solo, Anthony plays with a warm sound and he utilizes everything from short sustained notes to longer, saxophone-like lines. The result is a versatile performance that does not rely on a single musical texture.
1974 also saw Jackson beginning to lead groups throughout the New York area as well as perform with drummer Tony Williams and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, recording with the bandleader on his album Hamp’s Blues.
In 1977, Jackson began to perform with guitarist Al Di Meola, which has become and enduring association. The same year, Anthony performed on Elegant Gypsy, Di Meola’s second album as a leader. The album was met with critical acclaim and reached the number five position on Billboard Magazine’s Top Jazz Albums chart as well as the number fifty-eight position on Billboard Magazine’s Top Two-Hundred chart.
The following year, Jackson recorded with trumpeter Jon Faddis on his album Good and Plenty. In 1979, Anthony performed with guitarist John Scofield on his album Who’s Who? The same year, he began to perform with pianist Michel Camilo, an association that would last until 1997. Jackson further evidenced his versatility by contributing to Gaucho, Steely Dan’s follow-up to their hit album Aja.
Beginning in 1981, Jackson began a professional relationship with guitarist Steve Kahn and performed with him until the early 1990s.
On February 4, 1982, Anthony recorded with Di Meola on the live album Tour De Force-Live. Recorded at the Tower Theatre in Philiadelphia, Pennsylvania, the album features contributions from keyboardists Jan Hammer and Victor Godsey, drummer Steve Gadd and percussionist Mingo Lewis.
The ensemble is at its best on the song “Egyptian Danza.” The song begins with a rock inspired riff that is made all the more powerful due to the fact that Di Meola and Jackson play it in unison. Anthony keeps the 6/8 feel of the song consistent by performing dotted half notes and eighth notes to anchor the rhythmic portion of the ensemble. About ninety seconds into the track, the song switches from a rock feel into an Indian music feel with Jackson performing a deep sounding groove that serves to augment the atmosphere of the song. The song ends with a variation of the introduction riff, ending the song on a powerful note.
The following year, Jackson contributed to guitarist George Benson’s album In Your Eyes as well as baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s album Little Big Horn. In 1985, Anthony performed on Camilo’s album Why Not? alongside saxophonist Chris Hunter, trumpeter Lew Soloff and drummer Dave Weckl. In 1986, he began to perform with pianist Michel Petrucciani, performing with him until his death in 1999.
In 1989, Jackson was able to pay tribute to his early idol James Jamerson when he contributed to the book and CD package “Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson." For the CD, Anthony played the song “How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone,” which was originally recorded for the 1960 album Love Child by Diana Ross and the Supremes.
In 1991, Jackson performed with Michel Petrucciani on the pianist’s album Playground with synthesizer player Adam Holzman, drummers Omar Hakim and Aldo Romano and percussionist Steve Thornton. Recorded for Blue Note Records, the album reached the number ten position on Billboard Magazine’s Top Contemporary Jazz Albums Chart. Jackson’s talents as an accompanist can best be heard on the album’s opening track “September Second.”
The song juxtaposed smooth jazz with a bossa nova feel creating a commercially viable record. Jackson plays into his viability by perfectly carrying the bossa feel by using low notes and textures to solidify the atmosphere. Anthony perfectly secures Petrucciani’s long phrasing with Romano’s laid-back sense of swing, producing a more groove oriented sound.
By the early 1990s, Jackson continued to increase his career as a sideman by recording with guitarist Pat Metheny on his 1992 album Secret Story. In 1993, Anthony performed with Michel Camilo and Dave Weckl at Avery Fisher Hall. The following year, he performed with guitarist Stanley Jordan on his album Bolero. In 1995, Jackson performed with Di Meola on the albums Acoustic Anthology and Electric Anthology, two albums dedicated to the acoustic and electric styles of Di Meola.
In 1998, Jackson joined Steve Gadd, trumpeter Flavio Boltro, trombonist Bob Brookmeyer and saxophonist Stefano di Battista on Petrucciani’s album Both Worlds. In 2001, Anthony joined bassists Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey on their joint album Just Add Water. The album also features the talents of bassists John Patitucci, Oteil Burbridge and Billy Sheehan.
Beginning in April 2004, Jackson began to perform on a frequent basis with guitarist Wayne Krantz at the 55 Bar in New York City. In 2005, Anthony performed with Di Meola and guitarist Leonid Agutin on their album Cosmopolitan Life. In 2006, he performed with Chick Corea in a band that included Steve Gadd, guitarist Frank Gambale and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane at The Blue Note.
In 2007, Jackson appeared on trumpeter Quincy Jones’ album Summer in the City, a compilation of Jones’ work throughout the years. The same year, Anthony performed with guitarist Mike Stern in saxophonist Dave Liebman’s group at Birdland. As of 2009, he continues to perform with Stern at the 55 Bar where they are often joined by drummer Lionel “King” Cordew.
Jackson lives in New York City, where he maintains an active recording and performance schedule.
Select Discography With George Benson
With George Benson
In Your Eyes (1983)
With Michel Camilo
Why Not? (1985)
With Chick Corea
With Al Di Meola
Elegant Gypsy (1977)
Tour De Force-Live (1982)
Acoustic Anthology (1995)
Electric Anthology (1995)
Cosmopolitan Life (2005)
With Jon Faddis
Good and Plenty (1978)
With Lionel Hampton
Hamp’s Blues (1974)
With Quincy Jones
Summer in the City (2007)
With Pat Metheny
Secret Story (1992)
With Gerry Mulligan
Little Big Horn (1983)
With Michel Petrucciani
Both Worlds (1998)
With Buddy Rich
Very Live at Buddy’s Place (1974)
With John Scofield
Who’s Who? (1979)
With Steely Dan
Contributor: Eric Wendell