Milt Jackson was to the vibraphone what Bud Powell was to the piano, in terms of how he disseminated the expansive harmonic vocabulary of bebop. This set, featuring both his early small group work and a fledgling Modern Jazz Quartet, indicates just how expansive his music was in the first decades of his career.
"Baggy Eyes" and "Autumn Breeze (In A Beautiful Mood)" are the earliest tracks on offer here, dating from April of 1948. They catch Jackson at a time when he was still paying off his musical debt to Lionel Hampton, and that man's influence is perhaps most traceable in Jackson's ability to swing; even on the second title, that feeling prevails, despite the lyrical nature of the piece.
"Bag's Groove (Take Two)," from Christmas Eve of 1954, is maybe remarkable more for Miles Davis' solo than anything else; he offers up a blueprint for an awful lot of his work before he went electric. At the same time, it's clear just how much Chet Baker was copping from him in the early years of his career.
"The Nearness Of You," recorded in May of 1955 by a quartet under Jackson's leadership, reveals how effective he was as a ballad player; his unassuming elegance shows just what Lem Winchester was getting from his work within the decade. Both players knew the intrinsic value of understatement as a valuable tool for musical expression, a point borne out by Jackson's work on "The Song Is Ended," recorded in Los Angeles in February of 1956 in the company of guitarist Barney Kessel.
Viewed as individual packages, releases like this serve as useful overviews of a given musician's work, though of course the importance of that musician within the course of the music's history is a matter of conjecture. That said, Jackson was and is important in that respect, and there's ample evidence here showing why.
Baggy Eyes; Autumn Breeze; I
Milt Jackson: Vibes (1-16). With John Lewis: piano; Alvin Jackson: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums; Chano Pozo:
congas, bongos (1,2); Henry Boozier: trumpet; Horace Silver: piano; Percy Heath: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums
(3); Miles Davis: trumpet; Thelonious Monk: piano; Percy Heath: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums (4); Horace Silver:
piano; Percy Heath: bass; Connie Kay: drums (5-7); John Lewis: piano; Barry Galbraith: guitar; Oscar Pettiford:
bass; Kenny Clarke: drums (8,9); Barney Kessel: guitar; Percy Heath: bass; Lawrence Marable: drums (10,11);
John Lewis: piano; Percy Heath: bass; Connie Kay: drums (12,13); Jimmy Giuffre: clarinet, tenor sax; John
Lewis: piano; Jim Hall: guitar; Percy Heath, Ralph Pena: bass; Connie Kay: drums (14,15); John Lewis: piano;
Percy Heath: bass; Connie Kay: drums (16).
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