May 7, 2008
Franz Jackson, dead at 95
by Peter Margasak on May 7th 2008 - 3:47 p.m.
Chicago has just lost perhaps its greatest living link to its earliest jazz history with the death of reedist Franz Jackson, who passed away yesterday at the age of 95.
Jackson got his start as a musician back in 1929, playing with the great barrelhouse pianist Albert Ammons, and over the decades he played with Jimmie Noone, Roy Eldridge, Fletcher Henderson, Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Benny Carter, James P. Johnson, and many others too numerous to mention. His career was nearly 80 years long, but he didn't make many records under his own name in that time--his last, I Is What I Is, was released in 2005 by Pinnacle. Still, thanks to his easy flexibility, which allowed him to bridge the gaps between traditional jazz, swing, and bebop, Jackson was a steady presence on the local scene--particularly at venues like Andy's, Dick's Last Resort, Joe's Be-Bop Cafe, the Green Mill, and Pops for Champagne--and he was reportedly in good form when playing at his 95th birthday celebration last November.
Jackson was chosen to receive the 2008 Theodore Thomas History Maker Award for Distinction in Performing Arts from the Chicago History Museum prior to his death, so his daughter Michelle Jewell will accept the award during a May 15 ceremony. A memorial service is planned for Saturday, May 24, from 1-3 PM at the Apostolic Lifehouse Church in Dowagiac, Michigan.