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Special Guests

D.D. Jackson

D.D. Jackson is a two-time Emmy Award-winning composer and a Juno Award-winning jazz pianist and educator. As a composer, D.D. specializes in writing, arranging, and producing memorable, custom-made music for t.v., film & other media. D.D. considers himself an “artistic problem solver”: he strives to get to the essential conceptual truth of what the client is looking for – and to express it in a creative and supportive way.

After receiving his B.Music with High Distinction in Classical Piano from Indiana University, and his Masters in Jazz from the Manhattan School of Music, the multi-Emmy-winning composer D.D. Jackson began his career as a jazz pianist/composer, and went on to record, perform, and tour around the world with some of the most acclaimed names in jazz and beyond, including drummer Jack Dejohnette, and saxophonists James Carter and David Murray (with whom he recently completed a week at New York’s historic Village Vanguard). He also has collaborated frequently with Questlove and “The Roots”, most recently appearing with them on piano at the theater of Madison Square Garden for the John Lennon 75th Birthday Concert, at Radio City Music Hall (for which he also wrote 30-piece orchestral arrangements), and as an arranger/producer/pianist on their last 2 CD’s.

Jackson has also recorded 13 jazz CD’s as leader or co-leader (including 2 for the major label BMG) featuring his original compositions, ranging from his Juno Award-winning solo piano CD “…so far”, to his larger-scale meditation on the events of 9/11 entitled “Suite for New York”; and two operas, including “Quebecite”[pronounced “KAY-beh-SEE-tay”] (based in part on his African-American father and Chinese mother), and “Trudeau: Long March/Shining Path” (about the father of Canada’s current leader, Justin Trudeau), both written with librettist George Elliott Clarke (the recently-appointed “Poet Laureate of Canada”).

Jackson has also been successfully composing music for television, film and other media for the past several years, in 2019 receiving his second Emmy Award, for Outstanding Original Song (with lyricist Billy Aronson), preceded by his first Emmy in 2016 for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition, among his 5 total Emmy nominations (all for his writing on the PBS show “Peg + Cat” ). He has also written regularly for both “The Wonder Pets” (Nickelodeon) (which won 4 consecutive Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Musical Direction and Composition), Esme & Roy (HBO/Sesame Workshop), and several other shows, and has done numerous commissions, most recently for The Ahn Trio and The Metropolis Ensemble. He is also doing increasing work for film, with the romantic comedy feature “You & Me” (for which Jackson wrote the score and collaborated on the songs with lyricist/director/co-writer Alexander Baack), recently winning the 2018 Cinequest Film Festival Audience Award for best comedy feature. As a writer, Jackson has also penned articles for such publications as the Village Voice and DownBeat magazine (for which he maintained a popular column on his experiences as a jazz musician entitled “Living Jazz”, for 5 years).

As an educator, Jackson is an award-winning professor and is currently on faculty at Brooklyn College where he teaches courses in their Global Jazz Masters program, and Media Scoring in their Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. He previously taught part-time at Hunter College for over 9 years, ultimately receiving the Hunter College Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching. Previously, Jackson was also Chair of Jazz and Contemporary Studies at the Harlem School of the Arts (where his past students included pianist Matthew Whitaker (who was recently featured as a child prodigy on 60 Minutes) and recent “The Voice” finalist We’ McDonald).

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Special Guests

Raymond James Mason

Born and raised on New York’s Long Island, Raymond James Mason picked up the trombone at a young age and later moved to NYC to study both classical performance and jazz studies at NYU. After studying with luminaries such as Brian Lynch, Lenny Pickett, Alan Ferber, and Elliot Mason, Raymond found himself in high demand as an artist across a myriad of genres. He became a member of Brooklyn afrobeat heavyweight, Antibalas, which led him to become the in-house trombonist for Daptone and Dunham Records, lending his talents to recordings for the late Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, the late Charles Bradley, Menahan Street Band, Lee Fields & The Expressions, and many more. In addition to the aforementioned artists, Raymond has also performed and/or recorded with Alicia Keys, David Byrne, Randy Newman, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Arcade Fire, Meghan Trainor, Ed Sheeran, Janelle Monae, Lukas Graham, Nile Rodgers, Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), Maren Morris, Earth, Wind & Fire, Mark Ronson and many more. All the while, Raymond was learning from these masters and honing his own compositional and vocal skills, patiently waiting for his moment to step out in the spotlight.

A long-time friend and horn section partner of Dala Records’ founder Billy Aukstik, Raymond reached out to Billy one chilly October day in 2016 to set up a casual recording session. At the time, Billy was recording out of an old East Village brownstone basement, equipped only with a Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder and a few old ribbon microphones. Billy and Raymond assembled an all-star squad of musicians including Alex Chakour(Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, Howard), Freddy DeBoe(Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones), Joe Harrison(Nick Hakim, Charles Bradley) and Morgan Price(Antibalas), and set out to record a couple of Mason’s new compositions. What came out of that session is the thunderous, emotional and raw debut of Raymond as a vocalist, songwriter and arranger.

On his debut single, Back When, Raymond utilizes the sounds of the Arp Omni bass synth, Farfisa organ, and fuzz guitar as his foundation and crafts a chilling song of lost opportunity and the world unknown. Drummer Freddy DeBoe’s steady yet crunchy feel on the drums merges the soul and hip-hop worlds and takes the song’s finale to a place reminiscent of Kevin Parker’s Tame Impala. On the flip side, No Clue, Raymond channels an even more intense feeling of lost love and speaks to the struggles of an unhealthy relationship. Guitarist Alex Chakour takes the spotlight here, using his fuzz tone to complement Raymond’s raw vocal performance and drive the song to an unhinged, almost garage-rock finish. Stay tuned for much more from this talented jack of all trades!