“I can see this now as a 69-year-old man, but I wasn’t equipped to understand those things at that age,” Jackson said. Soon, Jackson stopped receiving royalty payments from Brouhaha; he’s never gotten them since. It didn’t help that Scott-Heron was developing a dependence on cocaine — first powder, then crack — that would ultimately derail his own career as well, and sometimes left him scrambling for money.
Jackson did freelance work for a while, playing with Kool & the Gang and Phyllis Hyman, among others. And he shopped around some demos that he’d made with help from the engineer Malcolm Cecil, who had produced a few of his and Scott-Heron’s albums. But over a dozen labels turned them down, and in 1983, he went to work for New York City, where he stayed until he retired in 2017.
Immediately, collaborators started coming out of the woodwork — particularly artists of a younger generation, like Vega, who were eager to touch the hem of an idol. By mid-2018 Jackson was recording regularly with Daniel Collás, a producer known for his work with the Phenomenal Handclap Band, putting together what would become “This Is Brian Jackson.”
The album features two songs drawn from recordings he made in the late ’70s with Cecil and members of the Midnight Band. Another is a tune that Jackson recorded back then during a session at Electric Lady Studios in New York, for the soundtrack of a Black indie film, “The Baron.” Those tapes had been lost, so he and Collás recut the song from scratch.
“Our mission was to make that album that I would have done back in ’77 or ’78, now,” Jackson said.
Not long after he started recording with Collás, Jackson was approached by the famed hip-hop producers Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge, who had just started a project called Jazz Is Dead centered on collaborations with musical elders. The album they made together channels the spirit of Miles Davis’s early ’70s jazz-rock, and was released last year.