South Bend Tribune
November 3, 2011
Jazz vocalist Judi K headlines Jackson Celebration party
By HOWARD DUKES
Tribune Staff Writer
Judi K is a highly regarded jazz vocalist, and Franz Jackson was a respected jazz saxophonist.
Both performers called Chicago their home base, so it's not surprising that the two performed together.
"I always had a grand time," she says. "He and I would do this routine when I sang 'Bill Bailey' where I would sing it through straight and then I would sing it again and he would make comical comments. That was one of many wonderful moments with Franz."
When Jackson wasn't performing, he was often talking about his family and, especially, his daughter, Michelle Jewell.
Judy "Judi K" Erikson currently lives in Wisconsin and says that she had never met Jewell.
The two finally met when Jewell organized a jazzy 95th birthday party for her father. That event became the first of the Franz Jackson Celebration concerts held at the Wood Fire Italian Trattoria in Dowagiac.
Jewell kept the celebration going after her father died in 2008, and Judi K will be the featured performer at the fifth annual Franz Jackson Celebration, which will be held on Sunday.
Judi K says that she was one of many musicians who honored Jackson at that party in 2007.
Jewell says that Judi K's attendance at the party led to her getting the call to headline this year's celebration.
"When I was planning the 95th birthday party in 2007, I found her name in one of the address books that had the names of people who he had played with," Jewell says. "I recalled him talking about her, so I called her."
Judi K also came to last year's celebration when Lisa Roti, another Chicago-based singer, was the featured vocalist.
Roti asked Judi K to sing during that event, and Jewell says that she liked what she heard.
"I kept that (performance) in mind," Jewell says. "And I'm excited to bring her in because she had a great rapport with my dad and she knows a lot of his favorite music. I think that people are going to like her voice."
Judi K says that she worked with Jackson for many years throughout the Chicagoland area. The two had a connection through trombonist James D. Beebe.
Jackson and Beebe were highly regarded musicians on the Chicago jazz scene, and they often shared the bandstand, Judi K says. The two men recorded together.
Judi K joined Beebe's band as a singer in 1987, and she remained with him as a vocalist and life partner until he died in 2004.
Judi K says that working relationship allowed her to see how Jackson worked with other musicians and how he interacted with fans.
"He was just a tremendous person and player," she says.
She also praises Jewell for the work that she is doing to keep Jackson's memory alive.
The celebration also will feature several other musicians with area ties who performed with Jackson over the years.
Judi K will be backed by drummer Bill "Stix" Nicks, bassist Darrel Tidaback and pianist Jim Pickley.
The three musicians all have a connection with Jackson, Jewell says.
"Dad and Bill Nicks are from the same era, and that was a time when the music was different than it is now," she says. "Both of them were self-taught, and I really appreciate how Bill is trying to keep live music alive and keep people interested in the old music."
Credit: Tribune Staff Writer Howard Dukes