Chicago Daily Herald
July 8, 2012
New Franz Jackson CD Set In The Making
By Steve Zalusky
If Chicago had a Mount Rushmore of jazz, Franz Jackson’s face wouldn’t just be on the mountain. He would be the mountain itself.
Jackson owned a unique claim on the Chicago jazz scene. As a clarinetist, saxophonist, vocalist, arranger and composer, his work stretched from the late 1920s, when he played with boogie-woogie master Albert Ammons, right up until a year before his death in 2007.
Along the way, he worked with the legendary Earl Hines and Fletcher Henderson, and led bands in Chicago and the suburbs that featured some of the great names in Chicago jazz history, including trumpeter Bob Shoffner and trombonist Albert Wynn.
Now Jackson’s daughter, Michelle Jackson Jewell, is hoping to produce a two-CD set of music from a live concert Nov. 4, 2007, Jackson’s 95th birthday, at the performing arts center in the town where he spent his last days, Dowagiac, Mich.
In order to get the project finished, Jewell needs to raise $9,000 for the production, including the mastering and the artwork. And, because of the donation platform she is using, www.kickstarter.com, which either accepts the entire amount pledged or nothing at all, she needs it by Tuesday, July 10.
Anyone interested can visit www.franzjackson.com to be directed to the donation site.
“That’s a lot of money, I know,” she said. “Most people are probably going, ‘I’m sure you could produce a CD for less than that.’ The fact is, when you factor in the costs for mastering 16-plus tracks, designing the artwork, replication of two CDs instead of the usual one, licensing, promotion, fees and taxes on the pledges from the Kickstarter campaign, it adds up to more than you might think.”
She said, “I’m making a lot of them, because I’m hoping, obviously, that they will sell, and, also, to avoid having to go through this process again. I intend to have a supply large enough to last quite a while.”
The goal, she said, is to produce 1,000 of them. She wants to give away a certain number of CDs as a “thank you” to the musicians who came on their own dime and out of the goodness of their heart to play in the concert.
She also plans to get the CDs into local stores, especially Chicago’s Jazz Record Mart.
“My dad had a very good relationship with Delmark for many years,” she said, referring to Delmark owner Bob Koester, who runs the Jazz Record Mart in downtown Chicago.
She said the CD would also be available through digital download.
The CD, she said, includes a lot of names that Chicago jazz fans will recognize, including Art Hoyle, George Bean, Bob Cousins, Eric Schneider and Yves Francois.
The session is a summation of a life that touched virtually every jazz musician in Chicago.
“My dad was one of the pieces of the foundation of Chicago jazz,” Jewell said. “He was one of the founding members of the Chicago Jazz Institute. He was there at the beginning.
“He listened to all of the guys come up from New Orleans when he was a teenager and in his early 20s. And that is how Chicago jazz became Chicago jazz. It’s a hybrid. It’s got its own unique sound, and it’s due to people like my dad and Bob Shoffner and Al Wynn and all those guys who were there at the beginning and helped refine the sound into what we hear today.”
The tunes consist of standards “Take the A Train,” “Perdido,” “Apex Blues,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Sweet Georgia Brown” and a tune Jackson chose not to record, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
“He made a point of never recording that tune, because he said, ‘Every jazz band records the Saints,’ and he didn’t want to do what everyone else did,” Jewell said.
Jackson plays saxophone on all the tracks.
“Toward the end of his life, he kind of closed up the case on the soprano and the clarinet,” Jewell said. “He didn’t pull them out as much and relied on his vocals and his saxophone primarily.
“You would never guess this was a 95-year-old man playing. It was just life affirming, the way he sounded that night was like a guy half his age.
“You just couldn’t keep him down. He played the whole three hours.”