Franz Jackson is a living jazz treasure, one of the last musicians to have learned Chicago Style jazz from its originators. Born in Rock Island, Illinois on Nov. 1, 1912, Franz is still active on the jazz scene in Chicago and throughout the world.
A tenor saxophonist and clarinetist, Franz began his studies at the Chicago Musical College and played with various bands, starting at around age 13 (1926). His first professonal job came at age 16 with Albert Ammons in 1929. He then worked with Cassino Simpson, (1931), Carroll Dickerson (1932, 1934-6), Jimmie Noone (1934), Roy Eldridge (1937), and Fletcher Henderson (1937-38). He re-joined Eldridge in 1938 and went with him to New York; in both the Henderson and Eldridge bands he was Ben Webster's replacement. He toured California with Earl Hines in 1940-41, then worked in New York City with Fats Waller (1941) and Cootie Williams (1942). He played in Boston with Frankie Newton (1942-3), toured again with Eldridge in 1944, and worked with Wilbur De Paris in 1944-45. Jackson visited the Pacific with Jesse Stone in 1946 in the first of a series of USO tours he played in the late 1940's and early 1950's.
After returning to Chicago in 1957, Jackson formed his own band, the Original Jass All-Stars. The band was a huge success and played a long residency at the Red Arrow in Berwyn, near Chicago. During this period he also recorded with Lil Armstrong (1961) and formed his own record company, Pinnacle. After playing in New York in late 1968, the Original Jass All-Stars went on several USO tours, visiting Vietnam and other locations in the Far East in the late 60's and early 70's. In 1974 Jackson recorded with Art Hodes. Jackson formed another group, the Jazz Entertainers, in 1980 and toured Europe as a soloist in 1981. In 1996 he received the Jazz Master Award from Arts Midwest.
At the turn of the century, Franz Jackson continues active on the Chicago and international jazz scenes. He appears regularly in Chicago venues such as Joe's BeBop Cafe, Andy's, the Green Mill, the Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago Historical Society, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and Jazz Institute of Chicago and Illiana Club of Traditional Jazz events. He also plays at jazz festivals and clubs throughout the world, and is often the main attraction for special events such as dinner in honor of the King of Sweden and the Jazz Series at the Tel Aviv Museum. He was interviewed by Studs Terkel for Steppenwolf Theater's TRAFFIC series on improvised music, broadcast by WBEZ-FM on July 27, 1997.
The Franz Jackson Collection
The Franz Jackson Collection at the Chicago Jazz Archive contains a wealth of material documenting his illustrious career. The collection contains many types of materials, including photos, correspondence, clippings, recordings, and oral history.