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Dowagiac Daily News
October 1, 2007
Actual Story

Still Swingin':  Jackson Turning 95

Monday, October 1, 2007 10:20 AM EDT

A gala celebration concert is planned for Sunday, Nov. 4, in Dowagiac to commemorate the 95th birthday of Chicago jazz legend, tenor-saxophonist Franz Jackson.

Musicians from across the country will come together to pay musical tribute to Jackson, who will reach a milestone most people never see, yet who continues to delight and inspire his audiences every time he picks up his horn.

Born Nov. 1, 1912, in Rock Island, Ill., and raised in Chicago, the essentially self-taught Jackson started his professional career at the age of 16 with boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons.

He has played with virtually every renowned jazz great, including Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Noone, Earl Hines, Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne.

He formed his own band, The Original Jazz All-Stars, in 1957 and solidified himself as a Chicago jazz institution with various appearances at clubs throughout the city, most notably a 10-year engagement at The Red Arrow nightclub in Berwyn, Ill., as well as three-year stints at the Jazz Ltd. and Old Town Gate.

Since then, he's played at virtually every jazz haunt in Chicago, including Andy's, Dick's Last Resort, Joe's Be-Bop Caf/, The Green Mill, Fitzgerald's and Pops for Champagne.

Jackson has performed throughout the world, including entertaining U.S. troops overseas in the 1950s and '60s.

He has been a repeat guest performer for royalty in Sweden and Israel and was a 2005 American Heritage Jazz Series Honoree as one of the Greatest Living Jazz Tenor Saxophonists.

He has appeared on "The Prairie Home Companion" with Garrison Keillor and been interviewed by Dowagiac visitor Studs Terkel for Steppenwolf Theater's TRAFFIC series on improvised music.

In 2006, he received a nomination for the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship and was the recipient of the Jazz Institute of Chicago Walter Dyett Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jackson continues his career to this day, most recently appearing in Chicago for the "Albert Ammons Centennial Celebration" in September and the New Orleans Jazz Festival this past May.

He continues to perform in Chicago and the southwestern Lower Michigan/northern Indiana area, including periodic lectures on jazz history at the University of Notre Dame.

According to Scott Yanow, jazz historian, Jackson is among the remaining 14 living musicians and singers who recorded before 1940, many of whom are now retired from performing, and he "goes back as far as anyone," having first recorded in 1931.

Some of the musicians slated to perform include Chicago saxophonist Eric Schneider; trumpeters Art Hoyle, George Bean and Yves Francois; drummers Bob Cousins, Billy Nicks and Hank Tausend; pianists Larry Dwyer and Jim Pickley; bassists, Darrel Tidaback, Thomas Palmer and Chris Carani; vocalists Lisa Roti and Judi K., and Mwata Bowden and members of the AACM Jazz Ensemble.

In addition to honoring Jackson, this concert will benefit four organizations committed to maintaining excellence in and promotion of the arts in the Midwest: the Jazz Institute of Chicago (of which Jackson is a founding member), the Dowagiac High School Jazz Band, the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival and Encore Dance Company.

Held in the Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, the concert is sponsored by the Dogwood Fine Arts Festival and Wood Fire Italian Trattoria.

Tickets sales begin today, Oct. 1.

Tickets range from $25 to $50 and may be purchased online at or by calling (269) 782-1115.

There are also a limited number of tickets available for a private buffet reception with Jackson following the concert.

Please visit or for more information.
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