Jacksonville is often bustling with an array of activities so wide that we only see a portion of what’s available to experience — like a panorama film screen that goes beyond one’s line of sight. That being said, it becomes easy to miss fascinating local phenomena.
Some say otherwise, that Jacksonville has little to offer. The complaints include, “there’s nothing to do here, there’s no activity, there’s no excitement, etc.” But perhaps those complaints would disappear simply by adjusting one’s gaze, by observing activities like the one that took place in the humble setting of the Parlour in San Marco on October 1.
What happened there?
Daniel Dickinson, a Jacksonville-native, student and rising jazz virtuoso performed three sets for his album release, A Gathering Foretold, featuring multiple Grammy Award-winning percussionist Ulysses Owens Jr. and renowned jazz guitarist Barry Greene.
“This album is the first chapter in what I believe will be an amazing story of yet another great musician from Jacksonville,” Owens said.
Owens is also a native of Jacksonville and a founding member of Don’t Miss a Beat, an arts-based non-profit organization rooted here. Further, he is an elite percussionist in the international jazz scene who has toured with the talents of Christian McBride, Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Elling and other world-class musicians.
So his endorsement of Dickinson is significant.
“Daniel is rare. He possesses so much skill and virtuosity both as a composer and musician, but has a very humble demeanor. Most people with his prowess of talent are quite unmanageable, but he comes from an amazing family and support system,” Owens said.
“He possesses so much skill and virtuosity both as a composer and musician, but has a very humble demeanor.”
Indeed, Dickinson is humble. Between each set, he would gently ask the audience to stay for the next, suffixing with the qualifier, “if you want,” as though he wasn’t sure how well he was doing.
But those watching were certain that jazz history was being written on stage. Local musicians in the audience couldn’t sit or stand still, giddy that they were witnessing the inauguration of someone who would later headline jazz music. Nobody wanted to leave — nobody wanted to miss what could happen next.
Every so often during Dickinson’s solos, Greene would lean over to Owens and they would nod as though to acknowledge they were bearing witness to something historical themselves.
Something historical, yes. And a local product, too.
Dickinson is a senior student in UNF’s renowned jazz program and a native of Jacksonville. He attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, where he began to write music in his junior year.
“I sort of started to just experiment. Of course, I started listening to a lot and analyzing the great composers from both jazz and classical genres, and also growing up in church, that music, gospel music, really influenced my stuff a lot, too,” he said.
Before high school, he attended LaVilla School of the Arts, where his spark for music was kindled.
“That’s where I really started learning how to play, period. A great, amazing teacher there by the name of Carol McQueen was my band director, and she’s the one who started me out correctly,” Dickinson said.
So, when asked whether he sees himself as a product of Jacksonville, he reflexed, “Definitely.”
That may have gone differently, as some time ago Dickinson wanted to transfer to another university, but when it didn’t work out, he stayed at UNF. Shortly after, he met Owens, who was co-teaching a master class with Christian McBride at UNF. When Owens heard one of Dickinson’s compositions, he asked if he could include it in his own album, Onward and Upward. Dickinson obliged.
Following their chance encounter, Owens produced A Gathering Foretold. Dickinson said the miraculous way the album came together inspired its title, and he attributes that to the supernatural — an expression of his Christian faith.
He described the album as a broad gambit of genres that demonstrate how he’s developed in college. The sounds are inspired by both classical and jazz traditions, featuring everything from swinging rhythms to a somber ballad.
Owens described it as “a great modern jazz album.”
He added, “It has beautiful and approachable songs and writing, and it really showcases the beauty of Daniel Dickinson and the great potential future he has as a composer and musician.”
This, all in a single night at a hard-to-find cocktail bar in the otherwise quiet corner of San Marco on October 1, is one example of the many world-class qualities of Jacksonville. Indeed, there is much happening here.