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Milt Jackson: Sunflower (2011)

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Milt Jackson: Sunflower With a series of mainstream dates to his credit dating back to the early 1950s—not to mention charter membership in the now-legendary Modern Jazz Quartet
Modern Jazz Quartet
Modern Jazz Quartet

band/orchestra
(MJQ) and one-offs with everyone from bop saxophonist Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
to "new thing" saxophonist John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
—vibraphonist Milt Jackson was the clear link between his instrument's swing era beginnings with Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
Lionel Hampton
1908 - 2002
vibraphone
and more progressive things to come with then-relative youngsters Gary Burton
Gary Burton
Gary Burton
b.1943
vibraphone
and Bobby Hutcherson
Bobby Hutcherson
Bobby Hutcherson
b.1941
vibraphone
. Still—and despite the label's centrist-leaning proclivities on one hand, balancing out its more groove-centric tendencies on the other—Jackson's signing with CTI Records was something of a surprise, as was his first project, Cherry (1972), an uneven collaboration with label-hit Stanley Turrentine. His first release for the label as a full-out leader, 1972's Sunflower fares much better, even with the presence of Don Sebesky
Don Sebesky
b.1937
arranger
, an arranger who brought out some of the worst of CTI's easy listening tendencies, but, equally, delivered some tremendously inventive and tasteful orchestral work.

Here, with a harpist and 11-piece string ensemble, Sebesky gives Jackson's opening ballad, "For Someone in Love," a burnished sheen, but it can't take away from the vibraphonist's ethereal touch, flugelhornist Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
's more propulsive approach, or pianist Hancock's abstract impressionism; all making for a stunning intro to an album that posits Jackson in even broader contexts than his discography to date.

The Legrand/Berman ballad, "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?," the Grammy-nominated song from Richard Brooks' 1969 film, The Happy Ending, swings with the kind of graceful elegance that Jackson had honed in the MJQ, but Hancock's more exploratory accompaniment drives the tune into unexpected places, even as Ron Carter
Ron Carter
Ron Carter
b.1937
bass
's low, resonant bass notes support the tune with perfect simplicity.

What was, back in the day, side one of Sunflower was, then, a bit of a shift for Jackson into more accessible territory, but nothing earth-shattering. Tectonic plates didn't move for those who put on side two of the disc, either, but opening with The Stylistics' oft-covered hit, "People Make the World Go Round,"was something new, as the vibraphonist entered light funk territory. Carter, locked-in with drummer Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
Billy Cobham
b.1944
drums
, proves that, at a time when electric bassists like Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke
Stanley Clarke
b.1951
bass
and Alphonso Johnson
Alphonso Johnson
Alphonso Johnson
b.1951
bass
were on the cusp of becoming fusion stars with {Return to Forever}} and Weather Report
Weather Report
Weather Report

band/orchestra
, the acoustic bass was still the absolute funkiest low-end instrument of all. Hubbard's closing title track is also a foray into light Latin music, with a soft string cushion broadening the soundscape when the tune moves into double-time during Hubbard's plangent solo.

The closing bonus track (not new, it's been on CD issues since 1997), Jackson's "SKJ," feels like something of an anomaly, both in its hard-swinging pulse and production—rawer, and less refined than the rest of the set. It speaks to the truth that musicians may move around stylistically during their long careers, but they don't forget where they came from. A beautiful record that expands an already broad view of Jackson, this CTI Masterworks reissue brings one of the vibraphonist's best albums back into print


Track Listing: For Someone in Love; What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?; People Make the World Go Round; Sunflower; SKJ (Bonus Track).

Personnel: Milt Jackson: vibraphone; Freddie Hubbard: flugelhorn; George Marge: clarinet,bass clarinet,alto flute, English horn; Phil Bodner: flute, alto flute, piccolo, English horn; Romeo Penque: alto flute, oboe, English horn; Herbie Hancock: piano, electric piano (5); Jay Berliner: guitar; Ron Carter: bass; Billy Cobham: drums; Ralph MacDonald: percussion; Max Ellen: violin; Paul Gershman: violin; Emanuel Green: violin; Charles Libove: violin; Joe Malin: violin; David Nadien: violin; Gene Orloff: violin; Elliot Rosoff: violin; Charles McCracken: cello;, George Ricci: cello; Alan Shulman: cello; Margaret Ross: harp; Don Sebesky: arranger, conductor.

Record Label: CTI Masterworks

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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