If you plan on talking jazz with NoDa resident Jeff Jackson, make certain you have the better part of the day, or perhaps several days.
The man is seriously knowledgeable about the classically American musical genre and its dozens of subcategories - which make jazz a delight to enjoy but often leads it to be mischaracterized as too difficult to fully explore.
Jackson, together with his New York City-based pal, Jeff Golick, founded the internationally recognized and heralded jazz website, Destination-Out.com. The name pays homage to the underground jazz classic album of the same name by legendary jazz alto saxophonist, Jackie McLean.
Celebrating their five-year anniversary this spring, Destination: Out is a jazz blog focusing on and sharing rare and often out-of-print music. Recognized by The New York Times, Playboy magazine, UK's The Guardian, BBC Radio and others as the oldest and one of the best jazz blogs for insight and analysis, Destination: Out provides regular music and occasional commentary from industry heavyweights. The site routinely gets more than 45,000 unique visits per month.
"Jazz has always been part of my musical diet," says Jackson, "I especially like jazz that's more adventurous, whether it's totally improvised or highly structured, that pushes the boundary of the art form." Jackson uses the term "adventurous jazz" to avoid what he describes as a "can of worms" among some aficionados who can debate at length specific categorizations, definitions and criteria for each. The terms that some would use to describe what Destination: Out features include free jazz, avant garde jazz and experimental jazz.
"We are after a big-tent approach at the site, featuring a wide variety of jazz styles," said Jackson, "We want people to gain broader exposure and deeper knowledge about jazz to better appreciate what it has to offer. What's important is recognizing that there is some fabulous work out there that could be lost to history. What we are doing is rescuing some oft-forgotten work and providing a showcase for it. Some of the most accessible jazz is also some of the most obscure; we are working to change that."
Jackson and Golick's shared passion for all things jazz led to many evenings of attending shows and talking about their considerable collections, artists, reviews and critiques. They found there were no centralized sources of historic jazz information online or intelligent discussions of adventurous jazz. The pair saw an opportunity to fill a void and began collaborating on developing an album guide as a book..
After completing considerable research, the project received a lukewarm response from publishers, and the book was tabled until after Jackson, a music critic who has written for MTV, The Village Voice, and Blender, moved to Charlotte several years later. Then, he and Golick struck upon the idea for using the Web as a repository for their work, and Destination: Out was born.
Their original concept was to share music that they love on their site. Jackson and Golick are known on the site by their nicknames, Chilly Jay Chill and Professor Drew LeDrew, respectively. They found so much excitement from the subjects they met during their research and soon were hosting expert music guests on their blog as well.
As the site has taken off, Destination: Out has launched a monthly concert series in Manhattan and made available for sale classic recordings from the legendary European label, FMP Records.
Visitors to Destination: Out will find ongoing samplings from well-known and more obscure artists. Destination: Out features everything from Cecil Taylor, Wayne Shorter, Ornette Coleman to Miles Davis and more.
The site frequently premiers new releases from more contemporary performers. A recent treat saw the debut on the site of several never-been-released recordings from Anthony Davis, one of the greatest living jazz pianists and composers. That description was offered alongside commentary by Davis collaborator and well-regarded jazz composer, flautist, and saxophonist Jason Robinson.
"We feel evangelical about what we are doing," says Jackson. "Much of what I consider the best music produced is showcased on our site for people to come and take advantage of."