Single Action

Willis "Gator" Jackson

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Single Action Review

by Scott Yanow

Willis Jackson was a tough-toned tenor who came to fame as a honker and screamer with Cootie Williams's big band in the late '40s. Although he calmed down his style a bit through the years, he always has a passionate sound and an accessible style best heard on blues, ballads and standards. This is a CD reissue of a 1978 session that features Jackson with guitarist Pat Martino, organist Carl Wilson and a supportive rhythm section. Although the Barbara Streisand-associated "Evergreen" (heard in two versions) and "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" may not seem like the best material for the tenor, he uplifts the songs. But best are a pair of hard-driving blues and a warm rendition of "Makin' Whoopee." Joe Fields accurately states in the liner notes that Willis Jackson's best recording was his prior Muse release Bar Wars but Single Action does give one a good example of Jackson playing in a tenor style that (other than Houston Person and now Joshua Redman) is quickly disappearing.

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