Born: October 11, 1952 Primary Instrument: Piano
From Strata East to Kanye West, from straight-ahead jazz to straight-out funk, Brian Jackson is a true American legend. Listen to the more than a dozen albums he co-wrote and produced with longtime partner Gil Scott-Heron and you are bound to have many 'where have I heard that before?' moments. That's because so many of his licks and riffs have been sampled - and continue to be sampled by - hip-hop aristocracy. Check his trademark Rhodes sound providing the groove foundations for cuts like Kanye's Home Again and Common's The People, which features Brian's signature synth lines from We Almost Lost Detroit, and you'll understand that his musical vision was decades ahead of its time. Maybe that's the reason that when you hear him play it's like something you've heard all your life.
A master of the keyboard, Brian's style is instantly recognizable. Yet, listen to him sing and you'll wonder why it took him so long to let the world hear his voice.
I had to let the soul ripen it, he simply states.
After over 35 years of creativity, Brian can still be found building musical alliances. His latest collaboration, Legba's Light, the brainchild of producer-DJ Kentyah Fraser, features music composed and arranged with bassist Ron Carter (Miles Davis Quintet), drummer Mike Clark (Herbie Hancock, Headhunters), Brazilian percussionist Airto (Miles Davis, Return to Forever), and Wu-Tang officer Killah Priest, continues along those lines. Brian continues to actively encourage contact with younger, less-established artists as well. His band, consisting of young phenoms Diallo House (bass), Ismail Lawal (drums) and saxophonist Stacey Dillard proves that this policy yields big dividends.
Brian reaches into both the future and the past to draw his inspiration, combining them to create a sound that is always new, yet true to the tradition of music that he insists on honoring. Ever aware how much a part of the music the listener is, Brian comments: This music isn't really mine; it belongs to all of us. The minute I start trying to own it, it's all over. It's my job to pass on what I've learned. That's living the Tradition.