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Milt Jackson

Milt Jackson

American musician
The basics
Quick Facts
Occupations Composer Jazz musician
Countries United States of America
Gender male
Birth January 1, 1923 (Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, U.S.A.)
Death October 9, 1999 (New York City, New York, U.S.A.)
Education Michigan State University
Milt Jackson
The details
Biography

Milton "Milt" Jackson, also known as "Bags", (January 1, 1923 – October 9, 1999) was an American jazz vibraphonist, usually thought of as a bebop player, although he performed in several jazz idioms. He is especially remembered for his cool swinging solos as a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet and his penchant for collaborating with several hard bop and post-bop players.

A very expressive player, Jackson differentiated himself from other vibraphonists in his attention to variations on harmonics and rhythm. He was particularly fond of the twelve-bar blues at slow tempos. He preferred to set the vibraphone's oscillator to a low 3.3 revolutions per second (as opposed to Lionel Hampton's speed of 10 revolutions per second) for a more subtle vibrato. On occasion, Jackson sang and played piano professionally.

Biography

Milt Jackson at Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, Half Moon Bay CA 1980s.

Jackson was born on January 1, 1923 in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Manley Jackson and Lillie Beaty Jackson. Like many, he was surrounded by music from an early age, particularly that of religious meetings: "Everyone wants to know where I got that funky style. Well, it came from church. The music I heard was open, relaxed, impromptu soul music" (quoted in Nat Hentoff's liner notes to Plenty, Plenty Soul). He started on guitar when he was seven, then on piano at 11. While attending Miller High School, he played drums in addition to timpani and violin and also sang in the choir. At 16, he sang professionally in a local touring gospel quartet called the Evangelist Singers. Jackson also took up the vibraphone at 16 after hearing Lionel Hampton play the instrument in Benny Goodman's band. Jackson was discovered by Dizzy Gillespie, who hired him for his sextet in 1945, then his larger ensembles. Jackson quickly acquired experience working with the most important figures in jazz of the era, including Woody Herman, Howard McGhee, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker.

In the Gillespie big band, Jackson fell into a pattern that led to the founding of the Modern Jazz Quartet: Gillespie maintained a former swing tradition of a small group within a big band, and his included Jackson, pianist John Lewis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Kenny Clarke (considered a pioneer of the ride cymbal timekeeping that became the signature for bop and most jazz to follow) while the brass and reeds took breaks. When they decided to become a working group in their own right, around 1950, the foursome was known at first as the Milt Jackson Quartet, becoming the Modern Jazz Quartet (MJQ) in 1952. By that time Percy Heath had replaced Ray Brown.

Known at first for featuring Jackson's blues-heavy improvisations almost exclusively, in time the group came to split the difference between these and Lewis's more ambitious musical ideas (Lewis had become the group's musical director by 1955, the year Clarke departed in favour of Connie Kay), boiling the quartet down to a chamber jazz style that highlighted the lyrical tension between Lewis's mannered, but roomy, compositions and Jackson's unapologetic swing.

The MJQ had a long independent career of some twenty years until disbanding in 1974, when Jackson split with Lewis, partly in an attempt to make more money on his own and, more likely, because he sought the improvisational freedom he once enjoyed. The group reformed in 1981, however, and continued until 1993, after which Jackson toured alone, performing in various small combos, although agreeing to periodic MJQ reunions.

From the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, Jackson recorded for Norman Granz's Pablo Records, including Jackson, Johnson, Brown & Company (1983), featuring Jackson with J. J. Johnson on trombone, Ray Brown on bass, backed by Tom Ranier on piano, guitarist John Collins, and drummer Roy McCurdy.

Jackson was a guest on recordings by many leading jazz, blues, and soul artists, such as B.B. King, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, and Ray Charles.

Jackson's composition "Bags' Groove" is a jazz standard ("Bags" was a nickname given to him by a bass player in Detroit. "Bags" referred to the bags under his eyes from his habit of staying up all night.) He was featured on the NPR radio program Jazz Profiles. Some of his other signature compositions include "The Late, Late Blues" (for his album with Coltrane, Bags & Trane), "Bluesology" (an MJQ staple), and "Bags & Trane".

Jackson was also no stranger to mentoring rising young jazz musicians, and allowing them to gig with him. This he did for young jazz star Robert Stewart in the Bay Area in 1992.

Jackson was a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey. He died of liver cancer on October 9, 1999, aged 76, and was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York City.

Discography

Milt Jackson (left) c. 1980 in Seattle, Washington
  • 1948: Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson (Savoy [1955]) with Howard McGhee
  • 1948–52: Wizard of the Vibes (Blue Note)
  • 1949–56: Roll 'Em Bags (Savoy)
  • 1949–56: Meet Milt Jackson (Savoy)
  • 1955: Milt Jackson Quartet (Prestige)
  • 1956: Opus de Jazz (Savoy)
  • 1957: Ballads & Blues (Atlantic)
  • 1956: The Jazz Skyline (Savoy)
  • 1956: Jackson's-ville (Savoy)
  • 1957: Plenty, Plenty Soul (Atlantic)
  • 1957: Bags & Flutes (Atlantic)
  • 1958: Soul Brothers – with Ray Charles (Atlantic)
  • 1959: Bean Bags – with Coleman Hawkins (Atlantic)
  • 1959: Bags' Opus (United Artists)
  • 1960: Bags & Trane – with John Coltrane (Atlantic)
  • 1960: The Ballad Artistry of Milt Jackson (Atlantic)
  • 1961: Soul Meeting – with Ray Charles (Atlantic)
  • 1961: Vibrations (Atlantic)
  • 1961: Very Tall – with Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve)
  • 1961: Statements (Impulse!)
  • 1961: Bags Meets Wes! – with Wes Montgomery (Riverside)
  • 1962: Big Bags (Riverside)
  • 1962: Invitation (Riverside)
  • 1962: For Someone I Love (Riverside)
  • 1963: Milt Jackson Quintet Live at the Village Gate (Riverside)
  • 1964: Much in Common with Ray Brown (Verve)
  • 1964: Jazz 'n' Samba (Impulse!)
  • 1964: In a New Setting (Limelight)
  • 1965: Ray Brown / Milt Jackson with Ray Brown (Verve)
  • 1965: Milt Jackson at the Museum of Modern Art (Limelight)
  • 1966: Born Free (Limelight)
  • 1968: Milt Jackson and the Hip String Quartet (Verve)
  • 1969: That's the Way It Is featuring Ray Brown (Impulse!)
  • 1969: Just the Way It Had to Be featuring Ray Brown (Impulse!)
  • 1969: Memphis Jackson with the Ray Brown Big Band (Impulse!)
  • 1971: Reunion Blues with Oscar Peterson
  • 1972: Sunflower (CTI)
  • 1972: Cherry with Stanley Turrentine (CTI)
  • 1973: Goodbye with Hubert Laws (CTI)
  • 1974: Olinga (CTI)
  • 1975: The Milt Jackson Big 4 (Pablo)
  • 1975: The Big 3 with Joe Pass and Ray Brown (Pablo)
  • 1976: Milt Jackson at the Kosei Nenkin (Pablo)
  • 1976: Feelings (Pablo)
  • 1977: Quadrant with Joe Pass, Ray Brown, and Mickey Roker
  • 1977: Soul Fusion (Pablo)
  • 1979: Milt Jackson (Quintessence Jazz Series) (Pickwick)
  • 1979: Loose Walk (Palcoscenico)
  • 1980: Night Mist (Pablo/OJC)
  • 1981: Ain't But a Few of Us Left – with Oscar Peterson
  • 1982: A London Bridge [live] (Pablo)
  • 1982: Mostly Duke [live] (Pablo/OJC)
  • 1982: Memories of Thelonious Sphere Monk (Pablo/OJC)
  • 1983: Jackson, Johnson, Brown & Company – with J. J. Johnson
  • 1983: Two of the Few with Oscar Peterson
  • 1983: Soul Route (Pablo)
  • 1993: Reverence and Compassion (Warner Bros.)
  • 1994: The Prophet Speaks (Qwest)
  • 1995: Burnin' in the Woodhouse
  • 1998: The Very Tall Band with Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown (live from Blue Note)
  • 1999: EXPLOSIVE! Milt Jackson Meets the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (Qwest/Warner Bros.)
  • 2002: At the Kosei Nenkin vol. 2: Centerpiece (Pablo; mostly unissued tracks from the 1976 Japanese live session)

With the Modern Jazz Quartet

  • Vendome (1952, Prestige 851)
  • Modern Jazz Quartet, II (1954–55, Prestige 170) incl. Django (1954)
  • Concorde (1955, Prestige 7005)
  • Fontessa (1956, Atlantic 1231) including Versailles
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet Plays No Sun in Venice (Atlantic, 1957)
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet (Atlantic, 1957)
  • Third Stream Music (1957, 1959–60, Atlantic. 1345) including Sketch for Double String Quartet (1959)
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet and the Oscar Peterson Trio at the Opera House (Verve, 1957)
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet at Music Inn Volume 2 (Atlantic, 1958)
  • Music from Odds Against Tomorrow (United Artists, 1959)
  • Pyramid (Atlantic, 1960)
  • European Concert (Atlantic, 1960 [1962])
  • Dedicated to Connie (Atlantic, 1960 [1995])
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet & Orchestra (Atlantic, 1960)
  • The Comedy (1962, Atlantic 1390)
  • Lonely Woman (Atlantic, 1962)
  • A Quartet is a Quartet is a Quartet (1963, Atlantic 1420)
  • Collaboration (Atlantic, 1964) – with Laurindo Almeida
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet Plays George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (Atlantic, 1964–65)
  • Jazz Dialogue (Atlantic, 1965) with the All-Star Jazz Band
  • Concert in Japan '66 (Atlantic [Japan], 1966)
  • Blues at Carnegie Hall (Atlantic, 1966)
  • Place Vendôme (Philips, 1966) – with The Swingle Singers
  • Under the Jasmin Tree (Apple, 1968)
  • Space (Apple, 1969)
  • Plastic Dreams (Atlantic, 1971)
  • The Legendary Profile (Atlantic, 1974)
  • In Memoriam (Little David, 1973)
  • Blues on Bach (Atlantic, 1973)
  • The Last Concert (Atlantic, 1974)
  • Reunion at Budokan 1981 (Pablo, 1981)
  • Together Again: Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival '82 (Pablo, 1982)
  • Echoes (Pablo, 1984)
  • Topsy: This One's for Basie (Pablo, 1985)
  • Three Windows (Atlantic, 1987)
  • For Ellington (East West, 1988)
  • MJQ & Friends: A 40th Anniversary Celebration (Atlantic, 1992–93)

As sideman

With Cannonball Adderley

  • Things Are Getting Better (Riverside, 1958)

With Miles Davis

  • Bags' Groove (Prestige, 1954)
  • Quintet / Sextet (Prestige, 1955)

With Dizzy Gillespie

  • The Complete RCA Victor Recordings (Bluebird, 1937–1949, [1995])
  • Dee Gee Days: The Savoy Sessions (Savoy, 1951–52 [1976])
  • The Dizzy Gillespie Big 7 (Pablo, 1975)
  • Dizzy Gillespie Jam (Pablo, 1977)
  • Musician, Composer, Raconteur (Pablo, 1981)

With Hank Mobley

  • Hank Mobley and His All Stars (Blue Note, 1957)

With Oscar Peterson

  • Reunion Blues (MPS, 1971)
  • The Oscar Peterson Big 6 at the Montreux Jazz Festival 1975 (Pablo, 1975)

With Don Sebesky

  • Giant Box (CTI, 1973)

With Stanley Turrentine

  • Cherry (CTI, 1972)
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