Friday, September 20, 2002 -- These days the epithet "legend" is attached to almost any artist who has been around for a few years and has achieved a high degree of media exposure. But, veteran jazzman Franz Jackson is, truly, a living legend.
The saxophonist-clarinetist, who will open the new Israeli Opera jazz series on October 18 (at 10 p.m.), will be 90 years old this November. He is one of the last survivors of the pre-swing era. He gave his first public performances in Chicago in 1926, as part of a dance music band which played on a boat that plied a regular route around the city on Lake Michigan.
He soon graduated to more stellar outfits led by the likes of pianist Albert Ammons, clarinetist Jimmie Noone and trumpeter Roy Eldridge and by the late thirties landed a regular job with the highly acclaimed Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. Up to this time, most of his work had been in the Chicago area but he moved to New York in 1938 and rejoined Eldridge's band.
Over the next decade he traveled extensively around the United States,playing with Earl Hinesâ orchestra in California between 1940-41 before teaming up with pianist Fats Waller and later with the Cootie Williams big band. In the late forties he went abroad on a number of USO tours before returning to Chicago in 1950 which still serves as his base.
Despite the advent of swing, bebop and later more modern jazz genres which embraced commercial forms of music Jackson remains faithful to the earliest traditional jazz styles. It will be a rare treat to see and hear him perform in Tel Aviv.
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