One of the most influential guitarists to emerge during New York’s avant-garde loft jazz scene has returned to influence a new generation of edge-pushing, genre-hopping musicians. Michael Gregory Jackson has tread a winding musical path over his 40+ year career, embracing everything from creative music, jazz, blues, rock and electronica soundscapes to harmonically rich & lyrically-deep vocal tunes, with the complex arrangements & subtleties that are a signature of his music. His ability to span musical genres was best captured by one reviewer’s depiction as “Musical Mercury.” He was barely of his teens when he served as co-creator in the Oliver Lake Quartet, one of the most critically acclaimed & far-traveling ensembles working jazz’s outer fringes. Michael’s brilliant technique on electric & acoustic, flavored with quicksilver runs, volume pedal swells and sudden shifts from crystalline melodic to fuzzy dissonance, has been name-checked as a critical-influence, and can be heard deep in the musical DNA of six-string legends like Bill Frisell, Vernon Reid, Pat Metheny, Marc Ribot, Mary Halvorson & others. His journey from the avant-garde to what the industry regarded as a more commercial, song-based sound was thankfully and intriguingly gradual. It gave fans with inquiring taste a ringside seat to an evolution that unfolded subtly over a series of superb albums, ones that continue to be favorites of critics and his fellow musicians. Jackson’s newest release, Frequency Equilibrium Koan, will come out on Golden Records in February 2021. Frequency Equilibrium Koan is a 1977 recording of an extraordinary concert of Michael’s music at Joe Lee Wilson’s New York City venue, The Ladies’ Fort, performed by an extraordinary quartet: Michael Gregory Jackson (guitars & percussion), Julius Hemphill (alto saxophone), Abdul Wadud (cello), Pheeroan aKLaff (drums). Featuring 40 minutes of music and liner notes by Michael and guitarist Bill Frisell, Frequency Equilibrium Koan offers listeners a priceless opportunity to experience a key moment in NYC’s long lost Loft Jazz Scene of the 1970s, with Michael at that scene’s heart.
I had the honor of connecting with Michael Gregory Jackson primarily about this particular release to get deeper into the who and what, the now and then and the journeys between. We talk the scene, the people and the magic of not missing moments. I have been listening to and sharing his music for many years now, and this release makes me feel as close to that NYC Jazz Loft scene as I have ever felt, I believe some of those notes are still ringing thru the streets of the city. Head over to his bandcamp page to get your own taste and see what I mean.