Bruce Jackson
Gig Seeker Pro

Bruce Jackson

Englewood, New Jersey, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010 | SELF | AFM

Englewood, New Jersey, United States | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2010
Band Jazz Jazz




"Track review of "Theme from an Imaginary Western""

Drummer Bruce Jackson's second recording, Just Left of Center, is mainstream quartet recording pinging from the hard bop/post bop quadrant of the musical radar. The recording is made up of five pieces, the final one being the seemingly unlikely Jack Bruce song "Theme for an Imaginary Western." Written and recorded originally by Bruce for his recording, Songs for a Taylor (Atco, 1969) and made famous by Felix Pappalardi and Mountain on Climbing! (Windfall, 1970), "Imaginary Western" possesses a pretty, if not opulent, melody, perfect for jazz interpretation.

The song is a calm showcase for tenor saxophonist Mike Mullan, who performs with Jackson and bassist Steve Varner as a pianoless trio. The performance is most effective, with plenty of Miles Davis empty space surrounding the three musicians. Mullan is front and center, playing both bluesy and balladic. Varner provides just enough momentum to keep the performance from dragging, generating a universe of harmony, one note at a time. Jackson reveals a deft ability with brushes, adding a plush fodder over which Mullan plays. The durmmer's sense of time is sure and his use of percussion dramatics simpatico with the rest of the trio on this exceptional interpretation. - All About Jazz

"Three jazzmen with great telepathy and great sonics"

(Bruce Jackson - Drums; Bob Himmelberger - Piano; Nicholas Bayak - Acoustic Bass)

Well, this excellent release does nothing to shake my belief that jazz players are the most accomplished musicians. It also re-affirms my long held opinion that jazz discs are the best recorded music. Here's a label and engineer (Dave Kowalski) that I've never even heard of before and the sonics are simply magnificent. The separation between instruments and basic soundstage are superb. One can easily follow each and every note played by all three performers. Just gorgeous.

In a more band-specific sense, this release reminds me of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" where they keep asking themselves "who are these guys?" as they're being relentlessly and expertly tracked by the posse. This trio outing by three unfamiliar artists had me asking the same thing while thoroughly enjoying the expert playing from the three-man posse.

Things start off with a very nice working of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" showcasing all three. Mr. Jackson's extended drum solo at the end demonstrates the immensity of his sound and is actually his only lengthy solo (otherwise, he tends to trade towards the end of tracks with pianist Himmelberger). Generally, Jackson's drumkit is a tad forward in the mix, but this is fine as his accents and shadings are wonderful. Pianist Himmelbeger is a true revelation - he shows versatility, fire and elegance throughout. The man's got the goods and won't be obscure much longer! Bassist Bayak is completely solid, whether supporting, walkin' or soloing. These three have great telepathy - something greatly enhanced by the articulation and clarity of instruments by the production job.

"Footprints" is followed by a series of standards demonstrating the ability of this group to span the gamut from bop, to post bop, to ballads, to ECM-like chamber jazz. The disc is very well-paced. Jackson handles brushes as well as sticks, Bayak knows the right drive and Himmelberger stands out in any context. This one is a marvelous example of a first-class jazz trio meeting with complete success while attacking a diverse and inspired program.

Tracks: Footprints, Firewater, Rhythm-A-Ning, Iris, Pee-Wee, Paris Eyes, Never Let Me Go, Picadilly Lilly, My Ship

- Birney K. Brown

Copyright 2006 Audiophile Audition
- Audiophile Audition

"Jazz Gallery performance - reviewed by Terrell Holmes"

It's refreshing when a musician who has spent
dues-paying years in the shadows, closer to
anonymity than fame, makes the most out of the
chance to stand front and center. It was clear that
drummer Bruce Jackson loved being on the bandstand
when he performed at the Jazz Gallery recently. His
trio treated the audience to tunes from Don't Sleep On
Your Dreams, a debut album with tunes culled from a
cross-section of timeless composers.
Jackson's approach is to maintain the songs'
original texture while providing just enough
variations to give them new angles. Wayne Shorter's
“Footprints”, for example, is played at a slightly
slower tempo, which allows the trio to linger at the
song's subtle edges. When Jackson, pianist Bob
Himmelberger and bassist Nicolas Bayak performed
this song live their sound and cohesion recalled
Coltrane's rhythm section. Himmelberger is a gifted
and daring pianist who can play with arresting
dexterity (“Rhythm-A-Ning”) or imbue the simplest
chords with the deepest emotion (“Iris”/”Pee Wee”).
The trio's rendition of the Weill/Gershwin chestnut
“My Ship” is as lovely a ballad as can be heard
anywhere, with Jackson's brushstrokes and Bayak's
plucking giving Himmelberger a firm foundation to
tell the story.
Sometimes a listener doesn't want jazz that tries
too hard to be innovative or to make a point.
Something as elemental as a rhythm section will
suffice. With a fine selection of songs and some
kick-ass players to execute them, Don’t Sleep on Your
Dreams is a welcome emergence from the shadows. - All About Jazz New York

"Don't Sleep On Your Dreams - reviewed by Marshall Bowden"

Drummer Bruce Jackson leads his trio through a varied and nicely chosen program that includes a couple of Wayne Shorter compositions as well as pieces by Larry Young, Thelonious Monk, Buster Williams, and Dave Liebman. All of these re truly modern jazz compositional heavyweights, and their tunes allow the trio to explore different directions, but there are also two standards which allow even listeners not familiar with tunes like Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” to realize that this is an inventive and eloquent group of musicians who play together as a cohesive unit.

Pianist Bob Himmelberger is firmly in the Bill Evans school of pianists, and he plays beautifully throughout, as does bassist Nicolas Bayak, who solos a fair bit and comes out sounding really good. Jackson’s drum work is the final ingredient to this combo that is able to swing fiercely when required, but that also has a great way with a ballad. Case in point: the group’s take on the standard “Never Let Me Go,” on which Himmelberger sets the stage and takes a pretty solo. Bayak’s solo is also impressive, and Jackson provides subtle shading with an array of cymbal work, saving his snare for really important punctuation.

The group does really well with the Shorter tunes, which include the opening track, “Footprints.” Although Himmelberger uses blocks of modal chords, he ends up sounding much more impressionistic than the earthy playing one might here from, say, McCoy Tyner on this type of tune. His solo brings in a lot of blues feeling, and moves strongly until Himmelberger hands the solo chair over to Bayak, whose tone is deep and resonant, and who solos with both an elastic feel for rhythm and a flair for improvising melodic lines that many soloists don’t have. The other Shorter tune is “Iris,” paired here with the Tony Williams composition “Pee Wee,” and here Jackson takes a delicate approach, utilizing brushes to allow himself to be both subtle and heard.

The group swings easily, and probably sounds most like the famous Evans trio on Buster Williams’ “Firewater,” which again finds Jackson using brushes, this time with a crisper, more percussive attack. Larry Young’s “Paris Eyes” is more of a hard bop swinger, and Jackson shows himself adept at keeping things moving along on this more uptempo number. Also noteworthy is the whimsical Dave Liebman composition “Picadilly Lilly,” which serves as a nice showcase for Himmelberger. Monk’s “Rhythm-A-ning” is taken at a fast tempo, and the group makes no attempt to sound particularly ‘Monkish’ –a wise choice, as these players have many strengths of their own to rely on.

Don’t Sleep On Your Dreams is a beautiful trio recording, and anyone who enjoys a straight ahead yet inventive jazz group will find a lot to like on this CD. It’s a keeper, and so is the Bruce Jackson trio.
- Jazzitude

"Don't Sleep On Your Dreams - reviewed by Dave Miele"

Don’t Sleep on Your Dreams, the latest from drummer/bandleader Bruce Jackson is trio jazz that swings in a most traditional sense. At times relaxed and bouncy; at others inspired and burnin’, Jackson and his sidemen pianist Bob Himmelberger and bassist Nicolas Bayak are receptive and responsive to each other’s individual musicality. These musicians take the art of the jazz trio to familiar territory…and add unique twists and turns. The disc is strong throughout, with a good selection of tunes and excellent arrangements that also display unique musical characteristics. The first of these unique arrangements is of Wayne Shorter’s neo-standard “Footprints”. This very common and perhaps over-recorded classic is given new life with a fresh arrangement set in 4/4 meter. The manipulation of time signature takes the tune from a waltz to a more relaxed “Equinox”-ish vibe. Shorter’s compositions are represented both here and on a medley of his tune “Iris” and Tony Williams’ “Pee Wee”. Shorter’s tune originally appeared on Miles Davis’ E.S.P.; Williams’ on Sorcerer. The medley is in a relaxed waltz tempo. Jackson plays superb brushes, with fine solos from Himmelberger and Bayak. Thelonious Monk is also represented. The trio performs Monk’s famous “Rhythm changes” tune, “Rhythm-A-Ning”. The tempo is up and the trio smokes. Jackson plays particularly nicely on this track, both during his rendering of the “melody” and a drum solo over the form of the tune. Organist Larry Young’s “Paris Eyes” is a medium-up swing tune. Following piano and bass solos, Himmelberger and Jackson trade 8s. Both musicians excel at improvising short, tasty solos. The drummer and pianist again trade on Dave Liebman’s “Picadilly Lilly”. The tempo is a bit slower and the form is more complex (8-8- 12—8). The trading is done in sections (with Jackson always taking the extra four of the bridge). The transitions are smooth despite the unorthodox form. “Firewater” features the band in its relaxed and laid back mode. Jackson plays light and bouncy brushes throughout and takes an interesting solo. On the ballad side of things are “My Ship”, with an easy Latin feel and “Never Let Me Go”, in a more straight ahead ballad feel. Jackson plays sticks—an unusual choice, but one that works well for him and the trio. Don’t Sleep on Your Dreams s definitely a CD worth getting. An unorthodox and interesting player and bandleader, Jackson’s choices are consistently fresh and unique. Whether it’s the choice to play a waltz in 4/4, to play a ballad with sticks or to take an extended “chops based” solo with brushes, Jackson frequently takes the path least expected. This goes a long way toward producing a compelling CD, which Jackson certainly has. Jazz purists will appreciate the traditional sound and approach. Those with more modern leanings will be drawn in by Jackson’s unexpected choices and interesting decisions. One thing’s for sure: no one is sleeping while this captivating CD is playing. - Jazz Improv New York

"Don't Sleep On Your Dreams - reviewed by Dan McClenaghan"

One way to give a straightahead piano trio set a modern edge is to cover some Wayne Shorter tunes. Everything that the onetime mid-sixties Miles Davis sideman has written seems to swirl to the edges of the mainstream without drifting out of it.

Drummer Bruce Jackson opens Don't Sleep On Your Dreams with a dark-toned, stretched-out take of Shorter's “Footprints.” Later he combines the sax man's “Iris” with “Pee Wee,” penned by the late Tony Williams, who was Miles' drummer during Shorter's mid-sixties tenure. Jackson's drumming on “Footprints” is intricate and assertive, buoying up the grey hues; on “Iris/Pee Wee,” he goes with a subtle approach, laying out soft colors and delicate textures behind pianist Bob Himmelberger's pensive sparkle and bassist Nicolas Bayak's deep, dark lines.

On Larry Young's “Paris Eyes,” the trio swings bright and straightahead. Jackson summons a deft and propulsive whisper from the cymbals, interspersed with some good old-fashioned rollicking on the rest of the drum set.

What makes the recording such a compelling listen is the switch from the modern-edged Shorter tunes to a more mainstream traditional approach on classics like “Never Let Me Go.” A gorgeous take on the Weill/Gershwin classic “My Ship” closes the set with a lovely melody, Jackson's hushed brushwork sighing in the background and pianist Himmelberger playing with a very pretty and relaxed precision. A perfect ending to a fine piano trio set.

- All About Jazz


Bruce Jackson
Don't Sleep On Your Dreams
Southpaw Productions, Catalog # SPC-001

Bruce Jackson
Just Left of Center
Southpaw Productions, Catalog # SPC-002



Bruce began his musical studies at New Jersey City University studying classical percussion, but took a detour from school to play full time and take private lessons, concentrating on drum set. Years of playing gigs and a tenure in private industry couldn’t suppress the need to further his education and Bruce attended Thomas Edison University (managing a full time student credit load while working a full time job and playing gigs) to complete a BA in Music. From there, Bruce went straight into the jazz program at William Paterson University, earning a Master’s Degree in Music (Jazz Studies). While at the university doing research toward his degree, Bruce was able to determine the source of the famous words on jazz by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival. This produced an article Bruce co-authored with David Demsey and was published in the January, 2011 edition of Down Beat Magazine.

Bruce has performed at some of the important jazz venues in the New York / New Jersey area including Smalls Jazz Club and Fat Cat in New York; Shanghai Jazz and Trumpets Jazz Club in New Jersey and private events for the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. Bruce has also performed at given clinics at The American School for Modern Music in Paris, France and appeared at the Rassegna Internazionale Jazz Festival in Moncalieri, Italy. Performance highlights include appearing with Freddy Cole, Melissa Walker, Ted Curson, Ricky Ford, Mike Richmond, Rhoda Scott, Calvin Hill and Warren Smith.

Bruce Jackson’s current release, “Just Left of Center” (Southpaw Productions, 2016) is a gathering of old and new friends. Saxophonist Michael Mullan (One More Once Big Band, Rufus Reid, Walt Weiskopf), pianist Bob Himmelberger (Rick Margitza, Mike Richmond) and bassist Steve Varner (Pat Martino, Phil Woods, Dave Liebman) help to add a cohesive groove and empathetic understanding of where the music wanted to go. The music was recorded and mixed by three time Grammy Award winning engineer, David Kowalski at Teaneck Sound Studio in Teaneck, New Jersey. The recording is in rotation at over 60 radio and online stations across the United States and Canada.

Band Members