With Sax Appeal, no other “appeal” is necessary. The soul is satisfied.
What happens when you bring four world-class saxophone players, a phenomenal pianist, a fingers-flying bass player, and a young “no sweat” drummer together?
Well, so much for the notion of “Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” I’m leaving the Kennedy Center Jazz Club and I feel like I’ve just had a five-course meal and love is still wailing away in my ears.
Let’s start with the evening’s featured performer, NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath. Once upon a time John Coltrane and a host of other jazz greats played with Jimmy Heath in the legendary Heath Brothers.
The epitome of graciousness and good spirits, Heath offered audiences his rendition of “Day Dream” as a jazz waltz, and he sent hallucinations spinning around the intimate Jazz Club.
At 89, legendary Heath does not look a day over 70, and he’s playing with the verve of a man with plenty of appeal still to come. His latest release is entitled “Together.”
Meanwhile, Bobby Watson had his alto sax speaking to us all night in compositions like “Confirmation” by Charlie Parker. His powerful virtuoso performance continued throughout the set as his soul and instrument remained perfectly in tune.
Watson recently released a new album “Check Cashing Day”, constructed in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington. It features poet and spoken word artist Glenn North.
The last two saxophonists, New Orleans native Donald Harrison and, of course, Javon Jackson, were not to be outshone, however. Each had solos that left the audience with many a satisfied smile. In particular, Jackson’s work on “One by One” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers stood out.
The saxophone, however, was not the only instrument of the evening. George Cables sat in front of the piano as if it were a magic machine. With his hands doing what looked like somersaults, the audience and the sax players gazed amazed at Cables’ intricate soul- elaborating deliberations that at times he coaxed, while at other times, he demanded from his keyboard.
Finally, we have Peter Washington on bass and Willie Jones III on drums. Like many of the artists on stage Washington worked with the legendary Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers. Meanwhile Jones was the youngest player on the stage, and the only non-Jazz Messenger to wow us with his drum solo.
After receiving a standing ovation from the Jazz Club audience, the group gathered for an encore rendition of “Bluesville,” which like any good Drambuie sends the listener into the chilly night air with dreams of cozy fires and soft cheeks.
The Kennedy Center’s Jazz Club is a superlative venue for jazz and, on this occasion, Javon Jackson and Sax Appeal were more than superlative. Seven incredible musicians, in a spirit of love and friendship, delivered a performance that will play in the audience’s ears for years to come.
Running Time: 80 minutes, with no intermission.
Javon Jackson and Sax Appeal played for one-night only on December 18, 2015, at The Kennedy Center’s Jazz Club – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For other jazz events at The Kennedy Center, call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or go to their calendar.