From Baltimore to Billboard, Kevin Jackson is making a name for himself in the world of jazz

By Jim Miller

Kevin Jackson headlines Delaware Loves Jazz.

After decades of learning the ins and outs of playing big-city bars and clubs, jazz guitarist Kevin Jackson just made his biggest move. 

On Saturday, August 6, Jackson and his band will journey north from his hometown of Baltimore to headline the Delaware Loves Jazz concert and fundraiser. But before that trip, he’ll land at another notable destination — a first-time arrival on the Billboard Smooth Jazz charts. 

Such is the destiny this month for Jackson’s latest single, “Druid Hill Park,” an instrumental tribute to one of Baltimore’s most popular outdoor recreational areas. 

“Feels amazing!” the musician says during a recent phone interview. “To make it to Billboard, you have a whole new title: a ‘Billboard recording artist.’ That has been the goal for me.”

Jackson’s history of performing music spans decades. Not all of it focused on smooth jazz. Far from it.

“For years, I did everything from R&B to jazz to rock, even some AC/DC and Led Zeppelin — even heavier stuff than that.”

But about 11 years ago, Jackson began to recognize the appreciation in the marketplace for smooth jazz: fans willing to pay consistently between $70 and $100 per ticket; promoters providing more in terms of plane fare, accommodations and meals; and the concert audiences were more respectful.

“There’s no knucklehead experience,” Jackson adds with a laugh. “[Instead] there’s a true appreciation for the artist.”

That’s not to say Jackson’s experiences with other genres were wasted years. Quite the opposite. Although the songs on his four albums thus far fit comfortably within the cool, chill confines of what most consider “smooth jazz,” his live performances offer an opportunity to mix it up, stretch out, and shred. 

“When you play live, your turn up the energy,” Jackson says. “Because if you do exactly like it is on the track or the single, it may be okay. But audiences want to be entertained. You can’t just give it to them smooth the whole night.”

Jackson reveals this musical sensibility may have come at an early age.

“My mother played Marvin Gaye and Al Green around the house. My older brothers and sisters, they would play Sly and the Family Stone, Earth Wind & Fire, and Cameo. My oldest brother would play Herbie Hancock and Return to Forever. 

“So, there was a plethora of music and different genres being played at our house.”

— Hear Kevin Jackson and his band play his Billboard-charting single “Druid Hill Park” and other cuts from his latest album, Elevation, on Saturday, Aug. 6 at P.S. du Pont Middle School for Delaware Loves Jazz. Acute Inflections opens at 7pm. Tickets are $40 in advance on Eventbrite, $50 day of show, with proceeds going to Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

Jim Miller
Since 1988, Out & About has informed our audience of entertainment options in Greater Wilmington through a monthly variety magazine. Today, that connection has expanded to include social networking, a weekly newsletter, and a comprehensive website. We also create, manage, and sponsor local events.