Jackson Evans is one of Savannah’s most skilled guitarists. Along with his wife, Maggie Evans, they form two thirds of the Jody Espina Trio. Between working at Benedetto Guitars, performing with famous musicians, and cycling, Evans has certainly earned much respect in the Savannah area and worldwide.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
I tend to think more locally in this regard… Of course, I’ve listened to all the famous jazz greats, but note-for-note I’ve gained more from people I’ve interacted with personally. My first guitar teacher, Corey Christiansen, really inspired me to become a jazz guitarist. Eric Nelson, my father in law, and my college professor, Mike Christiansen were my most important teachers in terms of formal training. Most recently my playing has been impacted a lot from artists I get to interact with as a part of my day job at Benedetto Guitars or other professional experiences: Oh, course Howard Paul in town, Tim Fischer in Myrtle Beach, Michigan State University professor, Randy Napoleon and one his proteges, Canadian guitarist Jocelyn Gould.
The owners and staff are like family to Maggie and I at this point and it’s a real treat to be able to work with such an amazing group of people.
What is it like performing and creating music with your wife, Maggie Evans?
In a word? Easy. We played our first professional gig together on New Year’s Eve ’99-’00. That makes 20 years that we’ve been working and growing together musical. I’m pretty sure we both know what the other will play before we know ourselves.
Tell us a bit about how it was living and performing in China?
We were there for almost two years. It was life changing musically, not so much because of the culture or location but because our only responsibility while there was to show up and play every night.
I’ve fantasized about doing a more rock-based, art music project before, but time constraints have kept that at the idea level.
What are some of your favorite venues in the Savannah area?
Of course, the Rancho Alegre gig has to be on the top of that list. The owners and staff are like family to Maggie and I at this point and it’s a real treat to be able to work with such an amazing group of people. The same goes for my Tuesday gig at Cotton & Rye. Not only do I get an outlet for playing solo guitar but I feel like I’ve been accepted as a part of their culture. You can probably tell from my answers here that personal relationships are the driving force behind my musical career.
What were some of your favorite performances ever in Savannah?
That’s a hard one to narrow down! Thanks to Jody Espina’s company Jody Jazz, I’ve been able to play with some of his endorsers. Having heavy weights like Don Braden or George Garzone show up to a weekend at Rancho Alegre is pretty memorable.
Is there any Savannah artist or musician you have not collaborated with but have always wanted to?
Not that I can think of. I’ve fantasized about doing a more rock-based, art music project before, but time constraints have kept that at the idea level.
I’m a player not a builder.
How did you link up with Benedetto Guitars?
Howard Paul was the first musician I met when I moved here in 2004. I actually spoke with him on the phone before we made the move and he was incredibly generous with his time. Having been friends over the years he approached me with the possibility of working for the company and for a long time it was a consideration. I shattered my left elbow and was unable to play for a while and it happened to line up with him needing help. That was spring of 2017! It turns out we’re a great team and having a lot of fun getting guitars out in the world so we may as well stick to it!
Have you ever thought about attempting to make a guitar of your own?
Nope. I’m a player not a builder.
Cycling is my balance. I get my aggression out there and that leaves only expression for performing.
Your thoughts on the current state of the Savannah music scene?
Between Savannah and Hilton Head I’m working almost every night and have opportunities to meet, hear, and sometimes perform with my heroes! I know a ton of world class jazz musicians from all over and they are all jealous of what we have here.
Tell us a bit about your cycling hobby …
I started racing bicycles about the same time I started playing guitar so both share are equal parts of my identity. My paths through each even resemble each other… I chose jazz because all my friends were rockers. I chose to race road bikes because mountain bikes were all the rage. These days it’s very yin and yang. Cycling is my balance. I get my aggression out there and that leaves only expression for performing.