Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Jackson, D.D. (Robert Cleath Kai-Nien)
Jackson, D.D. (Robert Cleath Kai-Nien); piano, organ/keyboards, composer; b. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 25 January 1967. He went to school through high school there (except 1980-81 in Knoxville, TN, his father's hometown. His father, Richard Lawson Jackson, was born 1937, Knoxville, TN. His mother, Lillian Liu Jackson, born Nanking, China (1937-1995). He is 1/2 African-American and 1/2 Chinese. His brothers are Chris Jackson (1964-1985), Shaw Jackson (b. 1969) and Charley Jackson (b. 1970).
Received B.Music with High Distinction from Indiana University in Classical Piano Performance May'89; studied principally with Menachem Pressler of the Beaux Arts Trio; also Edward Auer and Michel Beroff. Then completed Master of Jazz/Commercial Music in May/91 at the Manhattan School of Music, NYC; studied with Jaki Byard. I subbed for John Hicks at the 1994 Montreal International Jazz Festival with David Murray's band and was subsequently discovered by Justin Time Records, with whom I began a relationship as leader.
My father is African-American and hails from Knoxville, TN; my mother was born in mainland China but moved to the U.S. when she was young, before later marrying my father and settling down in Canada.
I started out my studies as a classical pianist, and have performed with orchestras since the age of 12. I grew up listening to classical music, especially Glenn Gould, and Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, a dutch group called "Focus", ELP, the Beatles, etc. My jazz influence was Oscar Peterson, mainly, and some Chick Corea, until college. He earned his B.A. at Indiana U. studying classical piano with Menachem Pressler. I completed a Bachelor of Music with High Distinction in Classical Piano from Indiana University in Bloomington in 1991, where I was a student of the renowned Beaux Arts Trio founder Menachem Pressler for 2 1/2 years. Following my classical studies, I made the switch to jazz, completing a Master of Music in Jazz from the Manhattan School of Music in 1991, and studying with the famed Charles Mingus alumnus pianist Jaki Byard, a veritable walking history of jazz piano. I also began studies with another Charles Mingus alumnus, the great Don Pullen, in 1990, and was in 1995 asked to replace him after he fell gravely ill, on his final project: a collaboration between Pullen's African-Brazilian Connection, the Chief Cliff Singers (a Native American singing and drumming group), and the Garth Fagan Dance Company. I also around this time began playing with tenor saxophonist David Murray, and eventually toured several continents with him as a regular member of the David Murray Big Band, Octet, Quartet, and the David Murray/D.D. Jackson Duo, eventually appearing on three David Murray albums including "Octet Plays 'Trane." Between 1995 and 1999 I also gained valuable additional sideman experience, performing and recording with such important figures in cutting edge jazz as James Carter, Jane Bunnett, Billy Bang, Chico Freeman, Carlos Ward and Dewey Redman. Other projects during this time included my participatio n in the development of a stage musical involving Murray, blues great Taj Mahal, Grateful Dead member Bob Weir, and director Avery Brooks on the life of Negro baseball league pitcher Satchel Paige; I also traveled to Senegal, West Africa, to participate in djembe master Mor Thiam's debut CD for Justin Time Records "Back to Africa" featuring some of the greatest names in Senegalese pop music and drumming. My work with David Murray brought me to the attention of Justin Time Records, and I began recording as leader for them in 1994. Since then I have recorded 10 CD's as either leader or co-leader - 8 for Justin Time, plus 2 for the major label BMG (RCA Victor), all featuring almost entirely original music. As a result of this work, I have been the recipient of numerous awards including: the 2002 National Jazz Awards Socan Composer/Songwriter of the Year, the 2000 Juno Award (the "Canadian Grammy") for Best Contemporary Jazz Album (my CD's had been previously nominated 4 other times), the 2000 and 1996 Jazz Report Composer of the Year as well as the 2000 Downbeat Critics Poll #1 Talent Deserving Wider Recognition for Piano. I enjoy Prince, Henry Threadgill. Butch Morris, Steve Coleman, Jon Jang, Hannibal Marvin Peterson, Alannis Morrisette, Tori Amos, and anything by Vladimir Horowitz. I saw the premiere of Peterson's African Portraits at Carnagie Hall. In 1997 I moved to the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.
Currently, I occupy the majority of my time as a composer and touring artist, working almost entirely under my own name with my own bands. Some recent appearances as leader include: solo piano concerts in Berlin, Tel Aviv, Prague, Chicago, San Francisco, Italy and the JVC Jazzfest in Toronto in a double bill with pianist Brad Mehldau; trio performances at the 2002 Ford Detroit International Jazz Festival, in Guimaraes, Portugal, Skopje, Macedonia, Hong Kong and at New York's Birdland; duo performances in the Yukon Territory and with Hamiet Bluiett at Jazz at Lincoln Center; and D.D. Jackson Group appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival, the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival, the JVC Jazz Festival in Saratoga, at New York's Iridium and throughout Japan. I also recently recorded and performed Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in its original jazz band version with the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra for release next year. As a commissioned composer I collaborated in 1999 with storyteller David Gonzalez on the New York Times-acclaimed music theater work Mytholojazz. It debuted at Broadway's New Victory Theatre and was subsequently brought on the road to performance venues throughout the U.S. and Canada. On July 1, 2000, I premiered "New York Suite", a major 80-minute large-scale work for jazz/classical ensemble, at Brooklyn's Prospect Park Bandshell featuring such NY luminaries as drummer Ralph Peterson, trumpeter Jack Walrath, saxophonist James Spaulding, percussionist Bobby Sanabria, and violinist Marlene Rice. Other commissions include the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival (1999) and the Festival Dancing in Your Head (Minneapolis, MN, 2001). I am additionally working on a new jazz opera with librettist and Governor General literary award recipient George Elliot Clarke to be premiered Sept./03 at the Guelph Jazz Festival (the focus of this grant application. )
Peace-Song (1995); Rhythm-Dance (1996); Paired Down, Vol. 1 (duets w. James Carter, Hugh Ragin and Hamiet Bluiett, 1997); Paired Down, Vol. 2 (duets w. Ray Anderson, Don Byron, David Murray, Billy Bang, Jane Bunnett and Santi Debriano, 1997); So Far (1999); Anthem (2000); Sigame (2002); Suite for New York (2003)
Bluiett/Jackson/Thiam (with Hamiet Bluiett, baritone sax and Mor Thiam, djembe, vocals, percussion): Same Space (1998), Join Us (1999); Bluiett/Jackson/El'Zabar (with percussionist/vocalist/djembe player Kahil El'Zabar): The Calling (2001)
Radio and television broadcasts:
CBC radio's Jazz Beat and Onstage, CBC television's Jazz Cafe, TV Ontario's Studio 2, and on Bravo television, and America on BET t.v., National Public Radio's JazzSet with Brandford Marsalis, and Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz.
Works by Jackson
He wrote the article "Ridin' the Wave: My Major Label Journey" which was published in the Sept./01 issue of Down Beat magazine. He also has a column in the same magazine called "Living Jazz" which premiered in their July/02 issue and has been running bi-monthly since.
Interviews on websites that are now defunct: webchat 9/17/97 jazz central station, le jazz July 1997