A Welcome Return Engagement from Jenifer Jackson
How many of you caught Jenifer Jackson’s most recent New York show last week at the Rockwood? The place was pretty full. As usual, the crowd was a lovefest, a bunch of A-list New York musicians coming out to revisit one of their own who was ubiquitous here ten years ago. But since she moved to Austin, return engagements have been limited. It was great to see so many familiar faces, everybody amped to see Jenifer. But was this a nostalgia show? No way. She debuted three new songs (which so far haven’t made it to youtube). The first, In Summer, related how summer babies don’t like the cold (Jackson is one: she speaks from experience), over a pensive janglerock verse that gave way to an only slightly restrained chorus filled with unexpected major/minor changes. She’s very eclectic: the next new one, a hypnotic, slow anthem, reminded of Australian rockers the Church, bassist Jason Mercer picking it up with a swoop out of lead guitarist Oren Bloedow’s counterintuitively biting staccato solo. And the last one was a western swing tune, Bob Wills without the horns or the pedal steel.
She sang with her usual combination of nuance and smoldering soul, the band – which also included the tremendously subtle Greg Wieczorek on drums and Matt Kanelos on piano – pretty much jumping out of their shoes to get the chance to play with her again. And as much as the new material was a lot of fun, the best song of the night was Trouble Fire, a sad country ballad from her Birds album that she started subdued and defeated before bringing it up and teasing the audience with allusions to a harmony on the chorus that she hinted and hinted at and finally nailed at the end just to make everybody happy.
Back in the day, you could catch her playing at Fez, then a week or two later she’d be at the Mercury, or the Living Room before it moved and became a tourist trashpit. Or maybe she’d do something at Pete’s Candy Store. Memo to anyone who has a favorite New York band or performer: carpe diem and see them now before they move to Austin or somewhere the same.