The Best of…
Milt Jackson, first gained notoriety as a jazz vibraphonist when he was a part of the rhythm section of Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in the late 1940s. From there he went to become a co-founder of the Modern Jazz Quartet along with pianist John Lewis
The first two tracks on this album are “Opus De Funk” and “Stonewall” from recordings he made for Prestige Records back in 1954 and 1955. They both include pianist Horace Silver who was in between Jazz Messenger sessions. All the other tracks are from Riverside Records between 1958-1963.
Milt is versatile on this disc. He is able to take the lead of the different orchestras and groups he fronted, while at the same time blending his sound into a piece, such as when he’s playing with alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley on “Blues Oriental” or guitarist Wes Montgomery on the two tracks from Bags Meets Wes!
Lovers of big bands music should enjoy the Jackson penned tune “Namesake” where the horn section gets to cut loose and wail. It’s too bad the composition is only three and half minutes because they could have exchanged solos all night for my tastes.
The last two tracks are live performances by the Milt Jackson Quintet at the Village Gate, a club that in the early ‘60s was competing with the Village Vanguard as the jazz club of New York. We get to hear Milt and his crew solo. It would have been nice to have the studio tracks to make comparisons with to see how inventive the Quintet was live, but I don’t know if they exist.
This CD was remastered in 2004 and sounds great. It’s certainly not comprehensive of the man’s talents, but there’s only so much that can fit on one CD. It is a great compilation of Jackson’s work from the mid-50’s to mid-60’s and is a perfect starting point for anyone interested in exploring his catalogue. It’s an excellent selection to be played at your next martini party.