South Bend Tribune
November 4, 2012
Jazz Legend Jackson's Final Show Released
By HOWARD DUKES
Tribune Staff Writer
The careers of Franz Jackson and Eric Schneider intersected plenty of times before Schneider came to Dowagiac to celebrate Jackson’s 95th birthday in 2007.
Schneider says Jackson worked with some legends of the first generation of great Chicago-based jazz musicians.
“He played with Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines, the piano player who got famous working in Chicago,” Schneider says. “(Hines) and Louis Armstrong made some brilliant recordings in the 1920s.”
A saxophonist, Schneider says Hines led a band at the Grand Terrace club in Chicago through the 1930s and into the ’40s.
“Franz played with Earl in the ’30s and ’40s, and I played with Earl (who died in 1983) in the late ’70s and ’80s,” Schneider says. “So we had that in common.”
Later, the two were frequent performers at an event called Jazz at Noon in New York.
“Franz would play at Jazz at Noon and sometimes we’d alternate and sometimes I got to play with him,” Schneider says. “And playing with Franz was like living jazz history because he was there when so much stuff went down.”
Schneider will be among the musicians and vocalists taking part in the annual Franz Jackson Jazz Celebration — marking the 100th anniversary of his birth this year — on Saturday at the Wood Fire Trattoria in Dowagiac.
The celebration concert starts at 5 p.m. and will be followed by a party marking the release of “Milestone,” the live recording of that 2007 birthday concert.
Schneider says he’s looking forward to attending this year’s celebration and CD release party because it gives him a chance to reunite with musicians who counted Jackson as a mentor and friend.
“Some of them, I have not seen since the birthday celebration, and it will be good to see them and play with them,” Schneider says.
Jackson, who died in May 2008, had a long career in which he shared bandstands with scores of musicians and singers.
Many of those artists — like Schneider — were longtime friends and collaborators who came together to help celebrate Jackson’s 95th birthday in 2007.
Jackson stepped onto the stage and played his tenor saxophone in what turned out to be his final performance. The album includes Jackson joining his friends in spirited renditions of tunes such as “Take the A Train.”
Saturday’s show will also feature young players such as tenor saxophonist and Chicago-based musician Chris Greene.
Greene never performed with Jackson. He says that in the highly competitive world of Chicago jazz musicians, a few people managed to earn long-term respect. Jackson, Greene says, was one of those people.
“When I was sort of at the very beginning and coming up in the early ’90s, there were a few names that I heard about that were established and legendary tenor woodwind people,” he says. “You had your Fred Anderson and Lin Halliday, and I also heard about Franz Jackson.”
Jackson, Greene says, was from an earlier generation and made his reputation as a musician who played in Chicago at the same time as legends such as Hines and Armstrong.
Later, Greene got a chance to see Jackson perform and to hear some of his old recordings. Both provided Greene with an education.
“When you’re 21, you’re probably more concerned with being hip and cutting edge,” he says. “And (it helped to learn) from someone who had been there and done that and who brought the whole wealth of jazz history to their playing as opposed to the hippest lick.”
Greene says a musician could listen to Jackson and get a sense of what later generations of Chicago-based saxophone players learned from him.
Jackson’s daughter, Michelle Jewell, has said that Greene’s playing reminds her of her father.
Greene says any similarity is the result of the history that Jackson was a part of making and that Greene seeks to interpret.
“We are all coming from the same history,” he says. “I’m sure that he liked Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins as much as I do.
“What’s great about Franz is that he got to hear them live while me being in my early 40s have to deal with MP3s and CDs.”
However, listening to the old recordings let Greene know that his thought process is similar to that of Jackson.
“I like to think, at least in the recordings that I’ve heard, that (Jackson) is not thinking about being hip or flashy,” Greene says. “He is just concerned about playing really well, sounding really well and playing in the moment. Hopefully, that is where the similarities come from.”
The sixth annual Franz Jackson Celebration takes place at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Wood Fire Trattoria, 134 S. Front St., Dowagiac. The release party for “Milestone,” a live recording of the Franz Jackson birthday concert held in November 2007, will take place at the Wood Fire Trattoria at 8 p.m. Tickets for the Franz Jackson Jazz Celebration and the CD release party are $25, $10 for ages 12-17 and free for ages 11 and younger. For more information, visit franzjackson.com or facebook.com/franzjacksonjazzcelebration.
Credit: Tribune Staff Writer Howard Dukes