After years on the road with the Modern Jazz Quartet and a series of sterling solo and all-star jazz performances, vibraphonist Milt Jackson decided it was time to see some green. Watching kids half his age, possessing half his talent, earn millions playing rock, he insisted he could earn more without the restraints of the MJQ. He sought out Creed Taylor in 1972 and Sunflower became his first (and best) of three CTI albums. The album is significant in many ways, not the least of which is Pete Turner's lovely ostriches-in-the-morning cover photo and a peerless version of Freddie Hubbard's classic ode, "Little Sunflower." Jackson is joined here by an outstanding aggregate of younger all-star musicians including Hubbard on trumpet and flugelhorn, Herbie Hancock, swapping chores on piano and Fender Rhodes, Ron Carter (of course) on bass and Billy Cobham on drums. Don Sebesky provides the subtle, and quite complimentary, string and horn arrangements. Acoustic guitarist Jay Berliner is also heard to enchanting effect on Jackson's "For Someone I Love." In addition to the alluring beauty of Hubbard's title track, Sunflower also includes one of the best instrumental versions of the popular "People Make The World Go Round." Hubbard carries the tune (as he did on the 1972 Hollywood Bowl record issued by CTI in 1977). Jackson scores one clever lick after another off the changes. Hancock comps seductively on Rhodes but gives one of his baddest-ever all-piano funk solos (his piano solo on "Sunflower" is a jazz beauty to behold too). Carter, as you'd expect, churns the groove like it boils in his blood. This quintet sounds so good together that it's a shame "SKJ" (which stuck out originally on the vibraphonist's 1973 CTI follow-up, Goodbye ) is the only bonus track available. I don't know if Milt Jackson made any money from Sunflower. But despite all the great music he's made over the years, Sunflower is certainly one of his most memorable.
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