Jackson played piano from childhood and studied at Juilliard and New York University. He worked early in his career with Frankie Fairfax, then worked in Hollywood from 1943-47 as an assistant director of music for MGM. In 1947 he recorded with Phil Moore and also under his own name as a solo pianist for Discovery Records. He played with Mildred Bailey in New York in 1948, then moved to Toronto in 1950, where he played often on television and radio. Over the course of the 1950s and early 1960s he released several LPs for labels such as Columbia Records.
In 1957 he returned to Los Angeles, where he continued to work as a composer for film and television. He also arranged for Ray Charles at one point, receiving an arrangement and co-producer credit for Charles' 1964 release "Sweet & Sour Tears" (ABC-Paramount 480).
By the early 1980s, he had moved to San Diego County, where he lived in semi-retirement in the Point Loma neighborhood, giving music lessons on a piano in his apartment. In the years before his death, he frequently sat in as a guest at the Sunday night jam sessions Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham hosted at the Bahia resort on Mission Bay, playing piano and harmonica between sets and occasionally with the band.
Phil Moore Orchestra, Piano Concerto with Calvin Jackson, Discovery DL 4001 (1947)
- Calvin Jackson (Discovery Records, 1949)
- Calvin Jackson at the Plaza (Vik Records, 1954)
- Rave Notice (Columbia Records, 1955)
- The Calvin Jackson Quartet (Columbia, 1955)
- Jazz Variations on Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (Liberty Records 3071, 1958)
- Cal-Essence/Calvin at the Piano (Raynote, 1959)
- Jazz Variations on Movie Themes (Reprise Records, 1961)
- Two Sides of Calvin Jackson (Reprise Records, 1961)