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Concert slated to honor jazz DJ Eric Jackson

Scott Haas
Concert slated to honor jazz DJ Eric Jackson
Eric Jackson was host of GBH’s Eric in the Evening. PHOTO: MEREDITH NIERMAN/GBH

Eric Jackson, who hosted Eric in the Evening on GBH radio for over 40 years and occupied a unique cultural position in Boston through decades of the city’s glacial transformation, died on Sept. 17, 2022. His life will be celebrated on Sunday, April 30 with a free concert at the station in Brighton. The concert takes place on International Jazz Day and is a collaboration between GBH Music and JazzBoston.

Jackson’s appeal went beyond a fan base of jazz aficionados. Due to the magnitude of his voice and calming presence on the radio, he attracted listeners who found solace in his virtual presence. Exemplifying this was his use of the Horace Silver tune “Peace” as his opening theme song to each show. Recorded by pianist Tommy Flanagan, the melody creates a space or context for listeners that has the potential to remove them briefly from conflicts. No surprise then that Jackson went to Boston University intending to become a psychiatrist.

“PEACE: The Concert for Eric Jackson” will begin “with a New Orleans-style second line jazz procession marching in.” Hosted by James Bennett II, arts and culture reporter for GBH News, the performances feature a jazz trio of guitarist John Stein, bassist Ron Mahdi and percussionist Mike Conners as the house band. Guest musicians include Fernando Brandão on flute, Laszlo Gardony on piano, Lihi Haruvi on soprano saxophone, John Lockwood on bass, Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone, Yoko Miwa on piano and Tim Ray on piano. 

“Eric Jackson brought a unique sound and approach to his GBH broadcasts, and his ability to showcase music and musicians made his air work masterful,” said Anthony Rudel, general manager of GBH Music.

Eric in the Evening initially ran five hours a night, four nights a week on GBH. Then, it was reduced to four hours a night and subsequently cut back to Friday through Sunday, from 9 p.m. to midnight.  In an interview noted on the Music Museum of New England website, Jackson said, “I’ve always sort of envisioned that there are a certain group of listeners who have shared some common experiences. So, if I say a certain line, this group of people will know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe some other group won’t. I think people know at least a little bit about a wide variety of music, so a lot of times when I speak, I’m speaking to that musical mind that’s dabbled in this and that and touched into a lot of things.”

Danilo Pérez, founder and artistic director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, spoke to the Banner about Jackson. “Eric had a huge impact in the Boston musical and cultural communities with his dedication and commitment to educate and share his love and enthusiasm for music, combined with his unique soothing voice, and in-depth knowledge of the music,” Pérez said. “He was deeply connected to jazz music as a human experience, and he knew that jazz, at its foundation, was an African diasporic music that was meant to elevate and exalt humanity.”

Jackson’s open-minded, eclectic approach took place for decades in a city that benefited from cultural experiences transcending its day-to-day challenges. Premiering in 1981 and considering Boston at that time, Eric in the Evening was a venue in which the music, and his deep knowledge of the artists who created the work, implicitly demonstrated cultural value to countermand the city’s racism. Jackson was both a person passionate about music and an educator.

“In his decades at GBH, Eric Jackson spread light by sharing his passion for jazz music to loyal listeners,” Mayor Michelle Wu told the Banner. “This concert will be an incredible opportunity for our city to remember ‘the Dean’ of Boston jazz radio.”

The in-person event is sold out. A live, virtual stream is available. Learn more at: wgbh.org/music