Philippines born, Boston raised, now New York based guitarist, composer, arranger, producer and teacher Ron Jackson has spent time playing with a number of different artists. Among these are James Spaulding, Taj Majal, The Boys Choir of Harlem, Cecil Brooks III, Jimmy McGriff, Cissy Houston, Ralph Peterson, Russell Malone, Larry Coryell, Don Braden, Benny Golson, Randy Weston, Ron Carter, and Oliver Lake, to list just a few.
Produced by one of the leaders of the Acid-Jazz movement, Melvin Sparks, Flubby Dubby finds Jackson in a traditional guitar trio format: guitar, organ and drums. Playing with Jackson is organist Kyle Koehler and drummer Otis Brown III. Together the three musicians play a collection of six Jackson originals and three covers with varying degrees of success.
Opening up with the heavily blues inflected “One For Melvin,” the three play with a singular purpose and rhythmic drive bespeaking hours of individual practice honing their own abilities. Brown’s percussion work is sloppy in just the way that makes blues inflected music so emotionally perfect. Koehler’s organ work drips with sentimentality and punctuates Jackson’s solo lines perfectly. Jackson employs clean taste and heavy blues scale based phrases during his solo and gives plenty of solo space to Koehler, who rips it up.
The other tracks are a kaleidoscope of different feels, tempos and styles. “The Look Of You” is an uptempo tour-de-force where all three of the musicians not only flex their ample musical muscles but also show how well they work together. Brown seemingly has a time machine because he anticipates and kicks both the solos of his compatriots so well the only way he could be so intuitive would be to go forward in time and study what they were going to do on their solos so he could be there in perfect sync with them. Koehler again flashes brilliance and Jackson is so perfectly locked into the meter it’s hard to believe he was ever a guitar novice whose hard work has earned him such widespread work and acclaim.
Other styles include a groove based feel on the title track, an unique uptempo take on the soul jazz classic “Love Ballad” where Koehler tends towards understatement rather than hole filling, and a sweet version of “Stars Fell On Alabama” that yields some tasty Benson-esque flourishes at the end.
For a musician like Jackson, who is not afraid to take chances, there are some missteps along the road. A cover of the McCartney “The Long And Winding Road” adds saxophonists Bruce Williams and Don Braden, but the arrangement and Jackson’s solo both seem to be out of kilter. Playing the melody himself on the guitar, Jackson writes accompanying chordal stabs that for the horns that neither amplify nor color the melody. Jackson, as a soloist, owes nobody any explanations, but he doesn’t seem to find his way until about halfway through his solo, but to be honest, you have to give him kudos for taking chances when so many lesser musicians would play it safe. Overall this disc features Jackson in some wide open playing that shows off not just how well he plays but also his how exciting it is to listen to his entire band live.