Franz Jackson's Jazz Giants | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Franz Jackson's Jazz Giants


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Tenor saxist Franz Jackson constitutes a living chunk of jazz history. He grew up playing jazz as handed down by Louis Armstrong, then worked with a rogue's gallery of the swing era's most colorful bandleaders, including Roy Eldridge, Fats Waller, and Fletcher Henderson, and as a mainstay of Earl Hines's Grand Terrace Orchestra (based here in Chicago). Yet despite his resume, Jackson refuses to become a museum piece: his unprepossessing personality and ingenuous energy ride roughshod over most genre-specific considerations. Jackson plays old music, but this music was new when he first played it, and it comes out of Jackson's horn gleaming with the creators' stamp; these days it also comes with a relaxed and informative running commentary by Jackson himself, placing many of the tunes into historical context while avoiding any sense of a lecture. Since turning 80 (!) a few years ago, Jackson has learned to conserve his strength a bit by replacing his trademark tenor with the less physically strenuous clarinet, from which he extracts a deep gulf-coast tone that approaches the consistency of molasses (a la one more of his former employers, the oft-forgotten Jimmy Noone). But he doesn't stint at all when it comes to his exuberant vocals, crackerjack

tempos for his quintet, and charismatic solos that stand as models of improvisational cunning. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Andy's, 11 E. Hubbard; 642-6805.

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