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Carlton Jackson, KMHD host, drummer and advocate for Northwest jazz and blues, has died

Carlton Jackson
Carlton Jackson

Carlton Jackson, a drummer, educator, longtime statesman of the Portland jazz and blues scene and veteran radio broadcaster, passed away recently at his home in North Portland.

Carlton was a top drummer in the Portland scene and beyond. He toured the country playing with top acts including Leroy Vinnegar, Billy Eckstine, Bo Diddley, Jerry Hahn, Maryann Price, Mark Isham, Jim Pepper, Houston Person, Esther Phillips, Dianne Schuur, Tom Grant, Lloyd Jones, Booker T. Jones, Kenny G, and actor Bruce Willis.

He played in countless local bands in Portland and throughout the Pacific Northwest. He was also a beloved friend, mentor and educator who could play anything in any genre — not just jazz and blues.

Jackson possessed a natural gift on the drum kit; he was a drummer who could maintain “perfect time,” which made him an in-demand musician both inside and outside the Portland music scene.

He truly loved to play and loved music so much that it was inextricable from his life and language.

Jackson joined KMHD in 2009, where he brought his extensive radio broadcast experience to a program that he conceptualized called “The Message.” Before coming to KMHD, Jackson hosted a show at KBOO. Jackson’s life was rooted in the experiences of the Black community of North Portland. He shared these experiences through music and words weekly on his radio program, which airs Sunday nights on KMHD.

The program showcased, as he put it, “African American consciousness” through the jazz-centric scope of music played on KMHD. For the KMHD staff, Jackson was a true source of inspiration, mentorship and friendship. He was always available and willing to provide special radio programs when needed — and he always spoke from a place of deep presence and reverence for the music.

Jackson shared his remarkable talent and knowledge with both the KMHD staff and the audience. For that, everyone at KMHD is immensely grateful.

In tribute to Jackson’s life and career, KMHD radio (89.1 FM) will be pre-empting regular programming at 7 p.m. nightly this week to rebroadcast Jackson’s “The Message” show.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Matt Fleeger