After 30 years of offers from producers (beginning with Quincy Jones in the late ’70s), Anthony Jackson has released what he is calling his solo debut. As expected from one of the bass guitar’s most original, uncompromising, dynamic voices, the scenario and the music are on Anthony’s terms, and the result is both instantly electrifying and demanding of repeated deeper listening. To set the stage, Jackson’s friend, Greek composer and bassist Yiorgos Fakanas, proposed a project in which he would compose modern chamber music for rhythm section, horn section, and string quintet, affording Anthony whatever roles he wanted. For Jackson, that meant playing the ultra-challenging melodies (all with a pick, and often doubled in octaves) as well as manning both written and improvised bass lines. All bass solos come courtesy of the fully capable Fakanas.
Anthony Jackson (left) and Yiorgos Fakanas
The ferocious opener “Inner Power” bursts forth with Dave Weckl’s double-time fusion-funk feel, fueling Anthony’s fearless grasp of the serpentine melody on his Fodera 6. In perfect contrast is his palmmuted, gradually reharmonized quarter-note groove behind Mitch Forman’s keyboard solo, Jackson and Fakanas on fretless both state the “Footprints” theme and variations, with AJ adding bold backing behind trombone and flute solos. The bubbling title track, riding Jackson’s groove-melody, recalls Isaac Hayes and CTI-era Bob James. Elsewhere, “Seviglia” summons Return To Forever and Anthony’s watershed work with Al Di Meola, while presenting the best pick-and-flange sound of his career. During Frank Gambale’s guitar solo, listen for AJ’s killer descending fill, which he begins palm-muted and changes to pick-and-flange mid-phrase! Jackson gets an Afro-Cuban canvas on “Caldera,” flawlessy fronting arpeggiated fanfares and showcasing his singular take on spontaneous, clave-savvy tumbaos behind the soloists. Closing on the high, “Parhelia” is another fuze-funk throwdown, with Jackson and Fakanas on dual percolating melodies and Fakanas’s best bass solo and support work. Overall, credit Fakanas for remaining true to his voice compositionally, while delivering Anthony as he wants to be heard and as hardcore fans want to hear him.