Milt Jackson, RIP.
October witnessed the death of Milt Jackson, the preeminent vibraphonist of jazz. As the music progresses toward the 21st Century, Jazz will continue to lose the pioneers of the Bebop Era. Milt Jackson was an urbane guiding light who will be missed.
In Jackson’s shadow, forging their own are two mammoth vibes talents: Stefon Harris and Bill Ware. Harris has been well represented the last few months in these pages and so now it is Ware’s turn. I had neglected to mention Ware in a recent Q&A regarding who I felt were the most important vibists. A reader wrote in and chastised me roundly and this is my response.
While not a new artist, Bill Ware has up until now had exposure through his association with the Jazz Passengers and the New York Knitting Factory. The East Orange New Jersey native studied with Dr. Billy Taylor and the Harlem Jazzmobile Workshop before co-founding the Jazz Passengers. In the late ‘80s, Ware began a productive period with the Knitting Factory were he was featured on several recordings and eventually led several dates ( Long & Skinny and Vibes ). His leader recording previous to this was captured on Creatgeous Records ( Las Sombras ). He worked with the last incarnation of Steely Dan as well as label mate Jim Nolet, Debby Harry and Marty Ehrlich (producer on this disc). Now, with Keeping Up With the Jones , Bill Ware has fully arrived... and not a moment too soon.
Gary Burton We Hardly Knew Ye. If Stefon Harris is to inherit the mantle of Milt Jackson, then undoubtedly Bill ware will inherit that of Gary Burton. The Multi-mallet-wielding Ware possesses an incendiary mind and a touch that is light as a feather. This is best illustrated on the original “Patterns of Rainfall” where Ware lightly expresses rainfall before launching into a chops-copping romp. His composition is spry and intelligent as is his choice of standards, I cite Wayne Shorter’s “Orbits” contained herein.
Wouldn’t It Be Cool... if Bill Ware recorded a disc with Don Byron. They would be a nuclear Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton. Keeping Up With the Jonesis an auspicious release, one screaming for attention.
Track Listing: Patterns of Rainfall; On Putnam Street; So I Can Live Again; Off the Hook; Walk With Me; Speak With Helen; Silk Flowers; Wednesday Afternoon; A Meager Existence; Orbits. (Total Playing Time 56:33)
Personnel: Bill Ware: Vibraphone; Jonathan Crayford: Piano; Brad Jones: Bass; Victor Jones: Drums.