“With Peter Bradley” – Soundtrack and Original Score
Tenor saxophonist and hard bopper Javon Jackson has delivered his first original film score for the art-world documentary With Peter Bradley. Bradley is an abstract artist who is finally beginning to receive some long overdue acclaim. The film documents the artist’s daily practice, much of which is his love for jazz, the spirit of which permeates his paintings. The score highlights some of Bradley’s favorite icons – the likely names of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Art Blakey and features Jackson’s quartet with pianist Jeremy Manasia, bassist David Williams and drummer Charles Goold along with guest trumpeter Greg Glassman. In addition to the film’s score, the album also includes four tracks recorded during the sessions for Jackson’s acclaimed 2022 release The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni featuring the quartet, this time with drummer McClenty Hunter.
.This is not a third person project because Jackson has long been a friend of Bradley’s as the artist would often come to see Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers when Jackson was in the band. The two stayed in touch throughout the years but it was only relatively recently that Jackson began to appreciate the breadth of Bradley’s artistry. As he came to realize, “He’s a jazz musician, only his instrument is paint.” Premiered at the 2023 Slamdance Film Festival, With Peter Bradley is an intimate portrait of the 79-year-old artist helmed by Bradley’s Saugerties, NY neighbor and filmmaker Alex Rappoport. It traces the artist’s biography as the first Black art dealer on Madison Avenue, curator of the first integrated modern art show in America, and likely the first Black abstract artist represented by a major New York gallery.
Jackson’s sixteen tracks., fourteen of which are originals, run just short of an hour. The tracks with Hunter on the kit are interspersed through the program, marked with an asterisk, as they are not part of the score which would mean the score itself is around twenty-five minutes through the dozen compositions. True to his style they are a mix of hard bop and emotive ballads. Jackson explains, “I approached the film with an open mind, I knew that Peter loves John Coltrane, Mingus, Clifford Brown and Max Roach – so there are hints of all of them. From there I just followed the mood of the piece and offered something based on my musical thoughts that would adhere to the scene.”
The album opens with his brief melancholy theme for the painter himself, followed by Goold’s drum rolls that ignite the swinging “The Game.” The sublime, ever delicate “Edith Ramsey” is a depiction of Bradley’s adoptive mother. “1 + 1” is a short interlude-like duet between the pianist and Jackson, leading to the brightly swinging “Easy Peasy,” followed by the up-tempo “On the Move,” a feature for Glassman. “In the Studio” sounds like a classic Blakey Blue Note pieces with the classic quintet configuration in hard bop mode, with burning solos from Glassman, Manasia, and Williams. Glassman’s trumpet lines clearly evoke Clifford Brown in the aptly named “C.B.” Ditto, for Jackson’s own lyrical Bird-like turn in “Mr. Parker.” “That’s It” fosters a mid-tempo soul-jazz like groove while “In the Clouds” is mostly a swinging piano feature interspersed with a statement from Jackson. The score concludes with “D-Town” as the full quintet again convenes in yet another Blakey-like swinger.
The remaining pieces, all quartet renderings, were recorded at the spur of the moment during the sessions for The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni, Jackson’s widely hailed collaboration with the renowned poet. Two originals – “Amy’s Theme,” dedicated to a close friend’s late wife, and “Brother G,” written for close friend Kenny Garrett – they include the classic standard “Never Let Me Go” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “That’s Earl Brother,” all of which fit the mood and the sequencing quite well.
Whether you ever see the documentary or not, the soundtrack is right in the wheelhouse for those who enjoy the hard bop, classic quintet recordings that we typically associate with the classic Blue Note period in the ‘60s. In many respects, though, it’s a timeless straight ahead jazz sound that Jackson presents here. It’s not new but it still sounds appealing.
- Jim Hynes
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